Just like humans, pets can suffer from a variety of heart conditions. While not entirely preventable, there are lifestyle measures you can take to promote good heart health in your pet. Today, our Boulder vets share advice for keeping your pet's heart healthy and signs they may be dealing with a heart-related issue.
Tips for Good Heart Health
- Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight can increase your pet's chances of suffering from a heart condition.
- Feed your pet a balanced diet: A balanced and nutritious diet can help your pet maintain their optimal weight and ensure they are getting all the nutrients they need to stay healthy.
- Regular wellness checks: Routine exams allow your vet to catch any emerging heart conditions early while they are still the most treatable.
- Provide dental care: Poor oral hygiene and gingivitis have been linked to heart disease in both humans and pets. Bring your pet to the vet for annual dental cleanings and practice good at-home oral healthcare.
- Frequent Exercise: Adequate exercise, including cardio (such as running), helps keep your dog or cat's heart healthy. You should aim to walk your dog every day and provide ample playtime for both cats and dogs.
- Parasite Preventives: Heartworm disease accounts for over 10% of heart disease in pets. Protect your pet from heartworm and other parasitic diseases that can damage the heart by making sure your pet's parasite preventives are up to date.
- Be aware of breed-related conditions: Some breeds are predisposed to heart conditions. Knowing what risk your breed faces can help you monitor them for any emerging conditions. In cats, Maine Coons, Persians, and Siamese cats are known for having heart problems, while dog breeds such as Cavalier King Charles spaniels, Boston terriers, and Chihuahuas are prone to heart disease.
Signs Your Pet May Have Heart Disease
The following symptoms could indicate that your pet is suffering from a condition or disease related to the heart. If you notice any of the following you should make an appointment with your vet right away:
- Dry coughing post-exercise
- Coughing at night
- Shortness of breath
- Fatigue or fainting spells
- Rapid, unexplained weight loss
- Pale gums
- Swollen abdomen
- Decreased appetite
- Lethargy or depression
Diagnosing & Treating Heart Disease
If you bring your pet to the vet because they are displaying signs of heart disease, your vet will probably begin by doing a thorough examination of your furry companion, including looking for irregularities with their heartbeat and listening for fluid in their lungs. If your vet suspects your pet is suffering from a heart condition, they will most likely refer you to a board-certified veterinary cardiologist.
A veterinary cardiologist will run further diagnostic testing on your pet and then will assess the situation to determine what your treatment options are.
Treatment options can range from medications to surgery. Depending on the condition your vet cardiologist may also recommend supplements or lifestyle changes, such as the ones mentioned above. If lifestyle changes are necessary, your pet's cardiologist can guide you with the specifics, such as how much exercise is appropriate and what the best diet is for your pet.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.