A Heart-to-Heart About Pet Heart Health
If you love your pets with all your heart it’s important to know more about their hearts and what may happen to this vital organ during the course of their lives.
HEART DISEASE IN PETS
Heart disease is common in both cats and dogs.
Heart disease in cats is often asymptomatic, that is, no signs or symptoms are showing.
Many affected dogs may remain asymptomatic, but some may develop complications that could end in congestive heart failure.
In dogs, heart disease is either present from birth (congenital) or acquired during their lifetime. In approximately 95% of the cases heart disease in dogs is acquired and 5% of the cases reported are congenital heart disease.
TYPES OF HEART DISEASE AND ASSOCIATED CAUSES
Congenital conditions are mostly the result of genes. Sometimes it’s a defect; other times it can be a hereditary (inherited) condition. You also don’t know when a defect can start causing problems.
Acquired conditions could be caused by injury, infection (parvo) or normal wear and tear (age). Different breeds are prone to different diseases.
HEART DISEASE PREVENTION
The following measures may all help fight the onset of heart disease, delay it or help with recovery and management of the disease:
- A healthy diet which is balanced and nutritious
- Frequent exercise appropriate for size and age
- A happy life that includes ample affection and appropriate discipline
One way to prevent certain heart diseases in pets is to give your pets quality parasite prevention as often as required. Correct dosage and administration is very important in terms of safety and efficiency.
Sadly not all types of heart disease can be prevented. Still, investing in the wellbeing of your pets (physically, emotionally and financially) and providing them with a stress-free environment is important no matter what the situation.
Although old age is inevitable, there is a lot that can be done in conjunction with your veterinarian to give your pet happy, healthy golden years. Old age is not a disease, but it does predispose your pet to many diseases for example heart disease. Working closely with your veterinarian will help detect symptoms prematurely and institute treatment promptly. Make sure you take your senior pets for annual wellness checks, particularly if they are a breed prone to heart disease.
You could consider taking out pet insurance while your pets are still healthy to make treatment and management of the condition more accessible and affordable should you need it.
SIGNS ASSOCIATED WITH HEART CONDITIONS IN DOGS:
- Respiratory problems can be related to heart disease, for example; coughing, shortness of breath and/or laboured breathing. Bluish gums could indicate low blood oxygen.
- If your dog is behaving strangely or seems unhappy he or she could be suffering from a heart disease. This can include restlessness and weakness.
- Weight problems, mostly weight loss, is another warning sign, especially if no dietary changes have been made.
- A swollen belly should alarm you too.
- If the disease continues to progress it could result in hind limb paralysis and sudden death.
SIGNS ASSOCIATED WITH HEART CONDITIONS IN CATS:
- General weakness
- Respiratory problems
- Fainting and/or collapsing
- Decreased/lack of appetite
- Grey or bluish gums or tongue
- Thromboembolism (obstruction of blood vessel by blood clot dislodged from another site in the circulation)
- Depression/antisocial behaviour
- Weight loss, weight gain and/or swollen belly
- If the disease continues to progress it could result in hind limb paralysis and sudden death
Apart from routine check-ups and vaccinations, please discuss any health or behavioural concerns with a veterinarian.
He or she will know which questions to ask and which exams and/or screenings to perform.
There is no one-size-fits-all medication for heart diseases and conditions.
For example, some treatments are only for dogs with clinical evidence of heart failure, and are used to increase the ability of the heart to pump blood. Other dogs or cats may require blood thinners, blood pressure medications or just basic supplements.
Your veterinarian should guide you and elaborate on how to manage your pet’s condition. It’s extremely important to follow instructions and to stay consistent with treatments. You may have to monitor and change certain aspects of your pet’s routine as well.
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