We love our pets with unconditional love. We can be gone for 5 minutes or 5 hours and yet we still get that amazing greeting from our dogs. Cats on the other hand are more like “Oh you’re home? Welcome to my house. “ That’s why it is equally important to learn about their very beating heart of our pets. Their hearts keep going because we are their whole world. So let’s talk about heart health!
1: The Physical Exam:
As part of the routine physical exam, your veterinarian will auscultate or listen to the heart and lung sounds. They will also feel in the groin area for pulses to make sure they are regular and not pounding with defecits. The veterinarian will be able to detect any type abnormal beat (arrhythmia) or potential “slushing” sound (heart murmur). If these are detected, your veterinarian may recommend a thorough cardiac ultrasound, ECG and or radiographs (xrays) to further assess the contractility and heart function of your pet. Depending on what is detected on both physical exam and diagnostic findings, the veterinarian may prescribe medication to help the heart work better (blood pressure medication, medication specific to the heart, etc).
2: Signs of Heart Disease
Heart disease can be difficult to recognize from a pet parent perspective, especially in cats. Cats are notorious for masking clinical illness until they may be in full blown congestive heart failure. Hence, the importance of the physical exam with the veterinarian. Here are 7 general signs of heart disease:
– Dry cough that follows physical activity or intensifies at night
– Shortness of breath or elevated breathing
– Restlessness when sleeping
– Rapid weight loss (over just a few weeks)
– Fainting – which can look like a seizure (commonly referred to as syncope)
– Potbelly caused by fluid build up
– Rapid tiring or fatigue
3: Preventing Heart Disease
There is no surefire way to prevent heart disease in dogs, especially since several common types are congenital. But you can take steps to help your dog live a healthy life.
It’s always important to feed you pet a healthy diet that includes Taurine (amino acid) and Omega-3 Fatty Acids (fish oil). This is a loaded question by pet parents and consult with your veterinarian about dietary recommendations.
Exercise is also a key part of having a healthy dog AND cat. While every dog requires exercise, if your furbaby has been diagnosed with heart disease, make sure to limit strenuous activity and carefully monitor your pooch afterward. Cats enjoy the laser pointer, feather toys and hunting! Get involved with them and you’ll wish you did it sooner. They love it!
If you have a breed that’s prone to heart disease, be vigilant and aware of the symptoms that accompany heart disease in dogs (dilated cardiomyopathy) and cats (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy). The sooner you catch a potential symptom, the better the prognosis is for treatment.
They can live a long and healthy life so they can continue to give you that unconditional love that we yearn for and need from them each and every day!