Dog lying on the floorHeart disease is one of the biggest medical problems in humans; and sadly, pets are no different. While pets often experience different types of heart problems than we do, they are no less serious.

As a pet owner, it is important to learn how to recognize signs of pet heart disease early and know what you can do to protect your pets.

Types of Heart Disease in Pets

While humans have heart attacks and stroke, pets are much less likely to experience these types of problems. This does not mean that they are safe from heart conditions, however.

Dogs and cats can be affected by:

  • Congenital heart problems – Some pets are born with an abnormality of the heart that affects its function. Depending on the nature of the problem, medical or surgical intervention may be helpful.
  • Valvular disease – There are four valves within the heart that help to control the direction of blood flow. Sometimes these valves will leak or otherwise not function properly causing a disruption in the heart’s function.
  • Cardiomyopathies – The heart is a muscle and sometimes an abnormality occurs in the actual muscle tissue, affecting the way the heart works. This is the most common heart problem in the cat, although dogs may have cardiomyopathies as well.
  • Heartworm diseaseHeartworms are an infectious parasite carried by the mosquito. When a pet is bitten by an infected mosquito, the worms are able to travel to the lungs and heart, where they reside and cause problems with the heart function. Dogs and cats alike are affected by this disease.

Recognizing the Signs of Pet Heart Disease

As with most medical problems, early intervention is key in managing heart disease. The earlier a problem is diagnosed, the better the chances of helping your pet.

But heart disease can be difficult to detect early in its course, so we ask that you be alert to these early signs of heart disease and alert your veterinarian if your pet is experiencing any of these symptoms:

  • Decreased stamina or exercise intolerance
  • Coughing, even intermittent
  • Difficult or rapid breathing, especially without physical exertion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • A blue tinge to the gums or tongue

While some of these symptoms may be indicative of other problems as well, it is best to have your pet checked if he or she is experiencing any of them.

How to Help Your Pet’s Heart

Pet heart disease is not always preventable, but the conscientious pet owner can certainly do a lot to support their pet’s heart health. You increase the odds of preventing or better managing heart issues by:

  • Being sure to keep your pet on a recommended heartworm prevention
  • Helping your pet maintain a healthy body weight
  • Providing your pet with an appropriate exercise regimen
  • Maintaining a good dental care program for your pet
  • Bringing your pet in for routine wellness exams
  • Alerting us to signs of trouble as soon as they are noted

If we are suspicious of a heart problem in your pet, a physical examination and other testing are often warranted. If your veterinarian detects a heart problem, or recommends additional testing, our cardiology department can investigate your pet’s heart health via radiographs (x-rays), ultrasound (echocardiogram), blood pressure readings, and heart tracings (ECG) as appropriate.

Early and aggressive intervention helps us to help many pets live longer and stay healthier. Be aware of the signs of heart problems in your pets and alert your veterinarian if you see them. Your veterinarian can then get our Veterinary Cardiology team involved in your pet’s heart care.

Be sure to take your pet’s health to heart and let your veterinarian know if you have any concerns regarding your furry family member.