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Pericardial Disease in Dogs and Cats

Pericardial effusion in the dog or cat can be due to several causes, including peritoneopericardial diaphragmatic hernia, pericardial cysts, atrial rupture, hemorrhage, neoplasia, idiopathic disease, primary cardiac disease, trauma, anticoagulant toxicity, infection, uremia, chylopericardium, and (in the cat) feline infectious peritonitis and hyperthyroidism. Heart failure can develop due to restriction of cardiac filling. On radiography the heart is large and round, and ECG voltages are decreased. Pneumopericardium without clinical signs has been reported. Primary tumours of the heart valves, endocardium or myocardium are rare in dogs and cats. In dogs hemangiosarcoma of the right atrium is the most common cardiac tumor; others include chemodectoma, granular cell tumour, chondrosarcoma, osteosarcoma, fibrosarcoma, malignant mixed mesenchymal tumour, lymphangiosarcoma, fibroma, rhabdomyoma, angiolipoma, myxoma, and mesothelioma. In cats primary heart tumours include hemangiosarcoma, angiolipoma, ossifying myxoma, and chemodectoma. Tumors that have spread to the heart from other sites are more common than primary cardiac neoplasms.

The heart is enclosed within a protective sac, illustrated in part by the blue line in the illustration. If this should harden, or fill with fluid, it will prevent the heart muscles from expanding and contracting correctly. The effect is much the same as that of myocardial disease (failure of the heart muscle itself), except that pericardial disease may often be treated.

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