Atrial Septal Defect

An Atrial Septal Defect can be found in both animals and humans. It is so uncommon that when a pet receives such a diagnosis we are oftentimes flabbergasted at what to do now. In this article we’ll discuss this defect, as well as the treatment options. Healthier Pets Today is providing you with all the necessary information you need about this disease. 

What is an Atrial Septal Defect

An atrial septal defect is a fairly uncommon congenital defect in dogs and cats. The most common kind is in the mid-septal location. The small defects often require no treatment at all, as they’re found by chance. Receiving the news of an atrial septal defect, it means that they have a hole in their heart between the upper chambers. This hole increases the amount of blood that flows through the lungs. If your pet has a long term atrial septal defect, it could damage their heart and lungs. 

The Types of Atrial Septal Defects

There are various types of atrial septal defects. These defects differ in severity, and most can be fixed with treatment. 

The Types of Defects Include:

  • Secundum is considered to be the most common type of atrial septal defect. This defect occurs in the middle of the wall between the upper chambers called the atrial septum.
  • Primum is the type of atrial septal defect that can affect the lower part of the atrial septum. It might occur with congenital heart defects.
  • Sinus venosus is a very rare atrial septal defect. This defect usually occurs in the upper wall of the heart that separates the heart chambers. It is often associated with other heart structure changes that can present at your dog’s birth. 
  • Coronary Sinus is another rare type of atrial septal defect. This is when part of the wall between the coronary sinus and the upper left heart chamber is missing. The coronary sinus is part of the vein systems of the heart. 

What are the Symptoms

A range of symptoms present themselves when your dog has an atrial septal defect. The symptoms will vary depending on the defect and where it occurs. Whether the defect causes blood to overload the left or right atrium will affect the symptoms as well. 

The Most Common Symptoms Include:

  • Reluctance to Exercise
  • Heart Murmurs
  • Coughing
  • Skin Turning Blue
  • Breathing problems

What are the Causes and Complications 

It is still unknown what causes an atrial septal defect in dogs. It is thought to be a congenital issue. This means that the dog had been born with it. A small atrial septal defect can correct itself when your dog is still a puppy. If your dog suffers a larger atrial septal defect, they are at risk for various complications including:

  • Right-sided heart failure
  • Irregular heartbeats known as arrhythmias
  • Stroke
  • Early death
  • High blood pressure in the lungs arteries

Treatments Available 

Although the thought of an atrial septal defect is scary, rest assured that there are treatments available. If you suspect or have seen symptoms that your dog has an atrial septal defect, your vet will begin the exam by asking you about your dog’s full medical history. 

The vet will begin by doing a full physical exam, as well as extensive blood tests. He might use X-rays as well as electrocardiograms to see if there are any issues affecting the lungs. Your dog would require a hospital stay if they test positive for an atrial septal defect. The vet would recommend this to help stabilise your dog’s health. If your dog has a severe case, the vet could suggest surgery. 

If your dog has a less severe case of an atrial septal defect, there are medications that your vet will provide to improve your dog’s heart function. It’s important that you abide to the dosage and frequency as prescribed by your vet when administering medication. 

Recommended Lifestyle Changes

If an atrial septal defect is present, certain lifestyle changes can heavily improve its quality of life. For example, lowering their sodium intake as well as limiting the amount of exercise that they get would definitely benefit their recovery. Your vet will guide you to make these lifestyle changes safely.