If your dog has a birthday coming up this summer, there may be a health risk you need to keep an eye on — and no, we're not talking about seasonal tick bites. Recent research has found that some dogs born during the summer months might have a higher risk of heart disease.
The May 2018 paper published in the journal Scientific Reports found that dogs who don't have a predisposition to heart disease born between June and August have higher rates of cardiovascular disease than dogs born during other months out of the year. The study, which analyzed 129,778 dogs from 253 different breeds, found that this risk peaked in July. Canines born that month were 47 percent more likely to have heart issues than dogs born on other times of the year. Oddly enough, the one exception to this risk were dog breeds who did have a genetic predisposition for cardiovascular disease.
So what the heck is going on here? Scientists suspect a few factors might be at play. First of all, this study yielded similar results from another study the team did on people — yes, humans born during the summer months were also more likely to have heart disease. That might suggest that a certain month of conception could be linked to gene mutations that put people or dogs (or both) at risk of heart problems.
Now, you may be wondering how the dog breeds that are genetically predisposed to heart disease managed to avoid having this increased risk that dogs without the predisposition had if they were also born during the summer months. The researchers suggested that the gene mutation that caused a higher risk for pups without the predisposition isn't one that's usually associated with heart disease in general. They also said animals who are already at risk due to genetics might be closely monitored by their owners year-round, so perhaps they're more likely to get help sooner.
Unfortunately, no matter how well-informed you are, there's no 100 percent guaranteed way to prevent heart disease in dogs. However, there are steps you can take to make sure your pup can live the healthiest life possible, straight from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA):
- Feed your dog a healthy diet that includes taurine (amino acid) and omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil).
- Make sure your pup gets plenty of exercise. Talk to your vet if you aren't sure how much exercise is an appropriate amount.
- If you have a canine prone to heart disease, be sure to inform yourself on the symptoms, including a dry cough that follows physical activity or intensifies at night, shortness of breath or elevated breathing, and rapid weight loss over the course of just a few weeks.
- Take your dog to the vet as soon as possible if you notice any symptoms. The sooner you catch it, the better your dog's prognosis will be for any needed treatment.