Drove Vets are urging pet owners to know the signs of an unhealthy heart, sharing their expert opinion on how to best spot the signs and how to get the appropriate treatment.
If we are perfectly tuned machines, then our heart is the engine, and the same is true for our pets!
The heart is the organ in charge of keeping nutrients and oxygen moving to every little corner of our bodies, making sure all of our systems continue to work perfectly.
We tend to associate heart issues with our golden oldies, and while age might increase the risk of some conditions, heart disease has a lot of causes! Some of these are more frequent in young animals, and others might even appear at any age.
How do I know if my pet has heart problems?
There are several signs you can be on the lookout for that might tell you when it’s time to take your pet to the vet.
Slowing down during exercise, fainting, coughing, distended abdomen, difficulty breathing and pale gums are all signs that can indicate heart conditions. Cats, in particular, can suffer from hind leg paralysis due to blood clots that form as a result of poor circulation associated with heart disease. However, many other issues that are not heart-related can have these same signs.
To make sure we’re on the right track, your vet will do a thorough physical exam and possibly examine the heart directly with tests like chest x-rays, ultrasounds, electrocardiography or blood tests.
The most common heart condition of dogs is disease of the heart valves while in cats it’s a thickening of the heart chambers – a condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
The circulatory system has a fantastic capacity to adapt, but as damages progress, it becomes too much for the heart to compensate. Even though early heart disease usually has no symptoms, once heart failure sets in, most of the time it is irreversible. This is why it’s important to do regular heart health check-ups and catch any treatable conditions in time.
My pet has a heart condition - what can I do?
Cardiac insufficiency is also known as congestive heart failure, and we agree that this sounds quite scary! Even though this condition is most likely irreversible, there are plenty of treatment options to improve heart function and help with other signs like distended abdomen, fluid in lungs and intolerance to exercise.
It’s essential that you:
- Follow your vet’s recommendations and for therapy;
- Talk to your vet or nurse about all the questions and doubts you might have;
- Bring your pet in periodically for check-ups and to make sure the treatment is still working;
- Keep in mind that most heart conditions will need lifelong treatment and just because your pet is feeling better you shouldn’t discontinue their medication.
Don’t forget, your vets are there for you and your pet! If you notice something might be wrong (for example: bouts of coughing, collapse, heavy breathing, distended abdomen) or you’re not sure of how to proceed, contact your practice immediately.