Hardening and Blockage of the Arteries in Dogs

Atherosclerosis refers to hardening of arteries due to accumulation of fatty deposits called plaque. Arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood from heart to other parts of the body. Atherosclerosis occurs when lipids (oily substance that is part of cell structure), fatty materials, such as cholesterol and calcium, collect on the inside of the walls (lumen) of arteries which results in narrowing of the arteries and obstruction in the normal circulation of blood. Over time, these deposits become hardened and the plaque is transformed into thickened and sometimes calcified mass ((atheroma). This naturally results in narrowing and lose of elasticity in the arteries. The plaque may eventually block the artery causing death of the tissue supplied by the artery, for example heart attack or stroke. 

In some cases, the plaque may break off and move to smaller blood vessels, blocking them or arteries may rupture, causing blood clots to form and travel to other parts of the body. Either way, the blockage starves the tissue of blood and oxygen which can result in damage or tissue death (necrosis). Clots in the arteries of legs cause difficulty walking while clots in artery of lungs can cause pulmonary embolism. 

Dogs older than nine years are at a higher risk of developing atherosclerosis and the incidents are reported more in male dogs than in female dogs.

Common symptoms associated with this condition include

Poor appetite


Difficult breathing


Generalized weakness





Difficulty with walking – may be concurrent with pain in legs

Heart attack

Certain breeds are predisposed to this uncommon condition in dogs. These breeds include including the Doberman pinscher, poodle, miniature schnauzer, and Labrador. 

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