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Nov
13
2015

Heart Disease in Pets

Yes; pets get heart disease too just like people. Aging pets most often die from kidney disease or heart disease. There are several different types of heart disease, but many pets do not suffer from blockages in blood vessels as people do. However, they can have a variety of heart conditions from a hole between the chambers of the heart to valve problems to cardiomyopathy (problems with the heart muscle).

Symptoms of Heart Disease in Pets

Often the signs of heart disease are found on a regular veterinary exam, starting with detection of a murmur or an abnormal rhythm. A difference in dogs and cats is that dogs most often let us know when something is wrong and cats hide their problems, often until it's too late. 

The first sign of heart disease you are likely to see, especially in your cat, is difficulty breathing, and that is seen late in the course of the disease and is life threatening. This is one of the many reasons you should take your cats and dogs to the veterinarian regularly for a check-up. Any murmurs or abnormal rhythms will be detected and heart disease could be diagnosed early. 

Diagnosis of Heart Problems in Pets

Symptoms of heart disease are similar for all different types of heart disease and the only way to differentiate is through diagnostic testing. The stethoscope has been around a long time and may seem like an outdated instrument compared to modern technology, but it's still the first tool for diagnosis and a very valuable one. If your veterinarian hears a heart murmur through his stethoscope or an abnormal rhythm, he will advise you to take further steps to diagnose whether the murmur or rhythm represents a serious condition or requires no treatment or concern.  

Additional diagnostic tools include blood tests, blood pressure measurement, an EKG, chest x-rays, an ultrasound of the heart, and/or a referral to a heart specialist.

Types of Heart Disease

There are diseases of the heart that affect primarily dogs and others that mainly affect cats. However, there are several different causes of heart disease that dogs and cats share. Among the most common are valve disease, congenital heart diseases such as subaortic stenosis, and cardiomyopathy. Valve problems, congenital problems, and several forms of cardiomyopathy can plague both dogs and cats. Your pet can even enter congestive heart failure.

Treatment of Heart Disease in Pets

Treatment  of heart disease will vary based on the form of heart disease, but different medications can be used that can extend life considerably.  Special diets, weight management, and exercise can also improve your pet’s condition and prolong quality of life.

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