Atrial Wall Tear
A dog’s heart is divided into four chambers. The two upper chambers are the atria (singular: atrium), and lower chambers are the ventricles. In atrial wall tear, the wall of the atrium is ruptured. This typically occurs secondary to blunt trauma, but may be due to some other cause. As with other wounds, the protective mechanisms of the body take over and heal the tear, with resulting scar formation, but if the tear is significant, heavy bleeding can lead to sudden death. A major tear, at the least, can cause serious illness. Trauma of this type may occur in dogs of any breed, age, size, or gender.
Symptoms and Types
- Sudden weakness
- Sudden death
- Rapid heart rate
- Ascites (abnormal collection of fluid in the abdomen)
- Difficult breathing
- Blunt trauma to the thoracic cavity (chest)
- Neoplasm in the heart
- Other cardiac diseases may play some role
Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical examination on your dog, into account the background history of symptoms and possible incidents that might have led to this condition. Complete blood tests, with a biochemical profile, complete blood count and a urinalysis will be performed. However, these tests may not reveal much information for the diagnosis of this disease. For confirmation of an injury to the atrial wall, your veterinarian will use specific diagnostic procedures and tests. X-rays, ECGs, echocardiography, color Doppler studies, and other such techniques will reveal structural and functional abnormalities pertaining to the heart. Any defect in the atrial wall, or scar formation indicating a past injury may be visible using some of these techniques.
Treatment will be directed toward overcoming any complications resulting from the atrial tear. If scar tissue has formed at the site of tear, your dog may stabilize but the possibiltiy of future complications will continue to be an issue. Surgery to correct the defect may be advised for some patients, but the outcome is, unfortunately, not always rewarding. Strict cage rest will be advised for such patients to encourage healing avoid further complications.
Living and Management
Unfortunately, long-term survival is very low for these patients, even if the tear has sealed through scar formation. However, if your dog has showed significant improvement your veterinarian may only schedule regular visits for progress evaluations. Follow your veterinarian’s guidelines regarding cage rest, diet, and other management issues.