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Atrial Septal Defect in Pugs

Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) is a congenital heart anomaly, where blood flows from the right to the left atrium due via the interatrial septum. This causes a volume overload of blood to the right atrium, right ventricle, and pulmonary vasculature, and prevents blood from being pushed into the lungs, which leads to poor oxygenation of blood cells and a decrease in the circulating oxygen in the body. The size and location of the hole in the cardiac muscle wall will determine the extent of damage – a minor defect may not result in any visible signs, while larger defects can cause in an imbalance in blood pressure within the heart.

For most dogs that are diagnosed with the condition, they tend to live normal lives. Unfortunately, dogs that suffer from a severe form die from secondary defects of the heart.

To diagnose Atrial Septal Defect, a veterinarian needs to detect a significant heart murmur while doing a thorough physical examination. Symptoms of Atrial Septal Defect include poor exercise tolerance, mucus membranes or tongue with a bluish tinge, swelling of the abdomen, breathing difficulties, collapse or even death.

This defect may even show up through routine x-rays. Chest x-rays will show a right-side heart enlargement while an echocardiography (ultrasound of the heart) will reveal abnormal physical changes in the heart and the blood flowing though from the heart to the lungs.

Depending on the size of the defect and the existence of other heart abnormalities, treatment for ASD will vary. Clinical signs must be manifested before treatment is started. In moderate to severely affected dogs, heart medications may be given to maintain normal functioning of the heart and for the relief of respiratory congestion. Most veterinarians prescribe a special heart-friendly diet and tell the dog owner to restrict the dog’s activity.

Surgery has been done in some cases where an affected suffers from multiple heart problems but results were not as promising. Thus, most veterinarians believe that the condition is best left managed with drugs.

Since it is a hereditary condition, screening of dogs which are predisposed to the disease as well as those whose littermates have been diagnosed with the disease should be done before breeding to prevent affected dogs from passing on the defect to its pups.