Heart Problems in Pets: What Owners Need to Know

A beagle with a large red heart decorationFebruary is American Heart Month, and the awareness doesn’t need to stop with you and your two-legged family. Heart disease also affects animals, and pet owners need to understand how to keep their pet’s hearts healthy.

Heart problems in pets are not uncommon, and part of keeping our dogs and cats hearts healthy is knowing what problems are out there and how to detect them. Learn what all owners should know about heart health and your pet.

Common Heart Problems in Pets

People are prone to suffering from heart attacks and strokes, however pets are much less likely to be affected by these problems. So what heart problems do affect dogs and cats?

Heartworm diseaseThis infectious parasite is transmitted by the mosquito. The worms colonize in the heart and lungs of their host, resulting in serious consequences for the pet.

Valvular disease – Many pets will experience leaking or malfunction of the valves within the heart, resulting in the inefficient pumping of blood and the buildup of fluid.

Cardiomyopathy – In pets with cardiomyopathy there is a problem with the way the heart muscle works. This can result in problems pumping blood and can make the pet more prone to blood clots.

Congenital heart problems – These are problems that a pet is born with. If causing a problem, they may require surgical correction.

How to Identify Pet Heart Disease

During your pet’s wellness visits we will listen to your pet’s heart and lungs for signs of a problem. However, paying close attention at home can help you to identify problems with your pet’s heart early on in the process. Signs that warrant investigation include:

  • Exercise intolerance
  • Coughing
  • Increased breathing effort
  • Periods where the tongue/gums are bluish
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased respiratory rate while at rest

If a heart problem is suspected, additional tests such as blood tests, radiographs (X-rays), or a heart ultrasound may be recommended.

Preventing Heart Problems in Pets

Not all heart disease in pets is preventable, but there are some things that you can do to decrease the probability of your pet having a problem. Be sure to do the following:

  • Keep your pet on heartworm prevention. Today’s options are very safe and effective.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight increases the odds of heart problems in pets.
  • Keep your pet moving. Exercise is a great way to help keep the heart healthy.
  • Provide good dental care for your pet. Dental disease can result in heart disease.
  • Keep up on your pet’s wellness exams. Early detection is vital for successful treatment of many problems.

Heart problems in pets are no fun, but with a little insight, there is a lot you can do to prevent them or detect them earlier on. No one wants to think that their dog or cat might have a heart issue down the road. The best we can do is be informed about pet heart disease and do what we can to steer clear of it.