We adore everything about our four-legged family member – and that includes their big heart full of love. But this same heart can also be at risk of heart disease.

Heart disease in both cats and dogs is broadly characterized as either congenital (present at birth) or acquired (develops as pets age or from other health conditions such as heartworms). Many cardiac conditions in dogs and cats are due to their heart not effectively pumping blood, leading to an enlargement of the heart and a buildup of fluid in the abdomen and chest. Disease can also be a result of arrythmias, a condition which causes abnormal beats due to faulty electrical signals within the heart itself. Without prompt diagnosis and proper management, the risk of congestive heart failure (CHF) increases, no matter the pet’s age.

So, how can you recognize the signs of heart disease? And how can you help your fur baby if they are diagnosed with this health condition? WVG has the answers.

Signs and Symptoms of Heart Disease

Initial symptoms: Quiet behavior, coughing, leg swelling, distended abdomen, and fainting spells
Intermediate symptoms: Mild to severe weight loss, pacing, inability to get comfortable, vomiting and diarrhea, and inability to exercise
Advanced symptoms: “Wet” breathing sounds, panting, difficulty rising, trouble breathing, sudden collapse, crying/yowling in pain, and blue gums and tongue

Diagnosing Heart Disease in Pets

In many cases, heart disease is initially diagnosed during a routine wellness examination based on the detection of a heart murmur and/or abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia). If your Westfield Veterinary Group veterinarian suspects heart disease, he or she will perform a variety of diagnostic tests including chest x-rays, electrocardiography (EKG/ECG), and blood work to confirm the diagnosis.

In undetected and more advanced cases, a diagnosis often occurs after a traumatic event such as collapse, uncontrollable vomiting, and diarrhea, or fluid buildup in the lungs. That is why regular and routine visits with your veterinarian are essential for your dog or cat’s heart and overall health!

Treatment and Management of Heart Disease

Although treatments cannot reverse heart disease, a pet diagnosed with this condition can live a relatively normal and healthy life. Treatment and management often include:

  • Diuretics, blood thinners, blood pressure medications, and anti-arrhythmia medications
  • Prescription cardiac diets with salt restrictions
  • Weight management through diet and exercise
  • Regular dental cleanings
  • Ongoing preventative care such as heartworm medications, routine wellness examinations, and regular diagnostic testing

Dental health and heart disease have a strong connection many pet parents are not fully aware of. Bacteria in the mouth can lead to some undetectable cases of chronic endocarditis, which can exacerbate heart disease.

If you believe your furry friend is experiencing symptoms of heart disease, contact either our Westfield or Union location for an appointment. And if you haven’t already, schedule your pet’s wellness examination as soon as possible. Our preventative wellness programs are designed to help keep your pet (and their heart!) happy and healthy by detecting common health conditions such as heart disease.