Canine Subaortic Stenosis

Subaortic stenosis (SAS) refers to the narrowing of the area of the heart just below the aortic valve. The narrowing develops due to the presence of an abnormal fibrous tissue and causes the increase of blood pressure in the left ventricle. This is the third most common congenital genetic heart defect in dogs. Breeds predisposed include the Newfoundland, Boxer, Golden Retriever, German Shepherd Dog, Rottweiler, Bouvier des Flandres, Bull Terrier, and Bernese Mountain Dog. An unusual form of subaortic stenosis in combination with mitral valve dysplasia has been reported in the Golden Retriever. Systematic studies of familial subaortic stenosis in Newfoundland dogs have demonstrated that the stenosis develops has a specific pattern of heredity.9 The majority of severely affected dogs with SAS die suddenly before the age of three years. However, the increasing availability of modern diagnostic imaging systems now allows a better assessment of cardiac function, thereby facilitating early detection of the disease. Dogs with mild pressure rarely progress to congestive heart failure (CHF). If CHF develops, it can be managed with medications that can prolong life and improve its quality.

Dogs with mild form of the disease and those who develop infective endocarditis are usually diagnosed at older ages than those with moderate and severe forms. Sudden death occurs mainly in the first three years of life with severe obstruction. Infective endocarditis and left heart failure tend to occur later in life and in dogs with mild to moderate obstructions. While most affected dogs have no signs, some animals may experience episodes of fainting and difficulty breathing. Affected puppies may have stunted growth, weakness, shortness of breath, abdominal swelling and, in extreme instances, may die suddenly within the first month of life. Most SAS patients are diagnosed when heart murmur is detected at the left heart base during a routine physical examination.

Prognosis and therapy depend on the severity of the disease and complications that may be present. Treatment is directed towards decreasing the workload on the diseased heart. Surgical correction of the defect may be attempted, yet owning to the nature of the disease and the age of the affected dog, the outcome of such a procedure is generally poor. Caridiopulmonary bypass and open-heart surgery are necessary to directly reach the stenotic area. Although this type of surgery can significantly reduce the ventricular pressure and possibly improve exercise ability, no improvement in long-term survival was found compared to dogs not undergoing the procedure.7 Atenolol, a specific adrenergic drug, has been used to prevent sudden death in dogs with severe subaortic stenosis.

Bacterial endocarditis in dogs

stenosis - constriction
subaortic stenosis - narrowing of the area of the heart below the aortic valve
ventricle - a lower chamber of the heart
dysplasia - developmental abnormality


  1. Falk T, Jönsson L, Pedersen HD. J Small Anim Pract. 2004 Sep;45(9):448-53. Intramyocardial arterial narrowing in dogs with subaortic stenosis.
  2. Robert M. Freedom, Shi-Joon Yoo, Haverj Mikailian, William G. Williams. The natural and modified history of congenital heart disease
  3. O. M. Radostits, Ian G. Mayhew, Doreen Marie Houston. Veterinary clinical examination and diagnosis
  4. Jim E. Riviere, Mark G. Papich. Veterinary Pharmacology and Therapeutics
  5. John K. Dunn. Textbook of small animal medicine
  6. Chris C. Pinney. German Shorthaired Pointer
  7. Richard W. Nelson, C. Guillermo Couto. Small Animal Internal Medicine
  8. Matthew J. Ryan, Veterinary Hospital Section Of Cardiology, UPENN. Understanding Canine Subaortic Stenosis
  9. Congenital Heart Malformations in Mammals. Magnus Michaëlsson, Siew Yen Ho


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