In humans, there is a condition known as Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. This is a rare disorder in which the heart stops working after an emotionally traumatic event such as loss of a loved one, a natural disaster, a terrorist attack, etc…
In wildlife medicine there is a condition known as capture myopathy. This is a condition in which an animal becomes so stressed/frightened that they die after being chased or caught.
I know many of my clients have expressed concerns that their dog is so anxious at times, they fear their dog may have a heart attack. Although, the majority of dogs will not have a heart attack from being anxious, there is in fact a real physiological connection between the mind and the heart. In the conditions mentioned above, there can be a mass release of the fight, flight, freeze, or faint hormones that can have devastating affects on the heart.
Too often, we want a nice clear divide between a “medical” issue and a “behavioral” issue. In reality, there is not always a nice divide. Behavioral issues can lead to physical issues and physical issues can lead to behavioral issues. For those of us who work in the field of behavior, we are well aware that how an animal perceives things can wreak havoc on the animals physical and psychological wellbeing. We are also aware of the benefits of treating anxiety disorders in dogs who have underlying heart issues, in hopes of keeping the heart as healthy as possible for as long as possible while, of course, decreasing the anxiety simply for the welfare of the pet.
For those of you who are intrigued by the similarities between diseases (both physical and emotional) that humans and non human animals share, I would encourage you to read a book called Zoobiguity. One of the authors is a human board certified cardiologist AND psychiatrist.