You have a lot of responsibilities when it comes to taking care of your pets, especially if you want to keep them happy and healthy. Believe it or not, heart disease in dogs and cats is a significant concern. Many things can put a dog or cat at risk for heart disease, from lifestyle and dietary choices to medication and numerous medical conditions. When you want to keep your pets healthy and are considering veterinary services for dogs or cats, here’s everything you should know about heart disease in dogs and cats.
What is Heart Disease?
Heart disease refers to a wide range of medical conditions that affect the heart and how it functions. Some types of heart disease can be present early, while other types of heart disease may develop due to your dog aging or gaining too much weight. Heart disease present from birth is known as congenital heart disease, and it’s something your vet may mention when you take your puppy or kitten in for their first checkup.
Because heart disease is more of a general term, the signs and symptoms (as well as diagnosis and treatment) of heart disease in dogs and cats can vary quite a bit. If you think your dog or cat may have heart disease, you should take them to the vet to get them checked out as soon as possible.
Causes of Heart Disease
The cause of heart disease can vary quite a bit based on the type of heart disease, the medical history of your dog or cat, and their lifestyle and dietary choices. We already covered congenital heart disease present from birth, so we’ll discuss some of the other causes of heart disease here.
Aging is one of the biggest causes of heart disease in pets. Just like humans, the bodies of dogs and cats change a lot as they get older, and many of those changes can lead to medical issues. As your dog or cat spends several years eating food and building up fat deposits on the arterial walls, their risk of heart disease increases. Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot you can do to prevent heart disease caused by aging, but regular vet visits can help you make an early diagnosis.
Obesity is also a contributing factor to heart disease. As dogs and cats put on more weight, their hearts have to work harder to circulate blood throughout the body. Because obesity is often a sign of a poor diet, a lack of exercise, or a combination of the two, your dog or cat may also have lots of fat built up in their arteries if they’ve been gaining weight for several months or years.
One thing you can do to help prevent heart health is to make sure your dog or cat is eating a healthy diet. Limit portions to the recommended amounts and talk to your vet about choosing a dog or cat food brand that promotes heart health. If your dog or cat is currently overweight, your vet may recommend switching to diet food for a short time. These foods are lower in calories and fats, which can contribute to weight gain and increase your dog or cat’s risk of heart disease. You should also avoid feeding your pets table scraps as often as possible since most of these foods are high in fat and not very good for pets.
Symptoms of Heart Disease
As a pet parent, it’s your job to ensure you know what to look for when it comes to heart disease as part of your regular dog or cat care. As soon as you notice the signs and symptoms of heart disease, it’s time to take your pet in for a checkup. Early diagnosis and treatment can make it significantly easier for pets to live with and manage heart disease. Here are some of the heart disease symptoms you should keep an eye out for:
- Fatigue: If you notice your dog or cat seems especially tired after a bit of exercise, that could result from heart disease. Cats and dogs typically have enough energy to play and go for walks daily, especially when they’re younger.
- Bloating: Swelling of the abdomen can be a symptom of heart disease, but this symptom can also result from other conditions. Take your pet to the vet if they have a swollen abdomen.
- Back leg weakness/paralysis: If your dog or cat normally walks fine but seems to be experiencing paralysis or weakness of the rear legs, you should visit a vet because they may have heart disease.
- Coughing/trouble breathing: While coughing and difficulty breathing may seem like respiratory issues, these symptoms can result from various types of heart disease. If your pet is coughing or suddenly has difficulty breathing, heart disease may be the cause.
- Weakness/collapsing: If your furry friend seems particularly weak or collapses, that’s a textbook sign of heart disease. Ensure you get your pet to a vet immediately if you see them collapse.
Heart Disease Treatment
Treatment for heart disease depends on the specific disease, which is why it’s so important to take your pet to a vet to get a diagnosis. Your vet can help you decide on the best treatment method, whether that’s medication, lifestyle changes, surgery, or a combination of treatments.
Keep Your Pets Healthy
Caring for pets can be a lot of work, especially when they develop heart disease and other serious medical issues. The good news is that your vet can help diagnose heart disease in dogs and cats, so you can get your pets the treatment they need as soon as they need it. If your pet is showing signs and symptoms of heart disease, contact us at Rolling Plains Veterinary Corporation at (204) 379-2374 to schedule an appointment today.
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