Heart Disease in Dogs and Cats

By March 12, 2015Blog

Is heart disease common?
The risk of heart disease increases dramatically with age. An estimated 60% of aged dogs may have heart disease. The rate of heart disease in cats is unknown because it often goes undiagnosed, however it may be present in up to 15% of cats. Certain breeds and overweight pets may be more prone to heart disease.

How is a heart problem diagnosed?
An evaluation of your pet’s heart health begins with a physical exam. There are many diagnostic tools available, including thoracic x-rays, ECG, cardiac ultrasound, and blood tests. It is important to evaluate your pet annually, or more often as they get older. Symptoms such as a murmur or arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) can only be detected by an examination with a veterinarian. While there is no cure for heart disease, symptomatic treatment and specialty diets can greatly improve the quality of your pet’s life. Early detection is important, if heart disease goes undiagnosed and untreated, it can eventually result in heart failure.

What are the signs of heart disease?
The signs of heart disease may be subtle and easily mistaken for changes associated with aging, and dogs and cats are affected differently. You and your veterinarian should watch for symptoms such as exercise intolerance, lethargy, difficulty breathing, and coughing.

How does heart disease affect pets?
Cat and dogs are most commonly diagnosed with one of three cardiac conditions.
1) Mitral Valve Disease- The most common type of heart disease in dogs, a valve becomes leaky and allows blood to flow through the heart in the wrong direction.
2) Dilated Cardiomyopathy- Also common in dogs, the heart’s muscle becomes stretched and weak, reducing the heart’s effectiveness to pump blood, and the heart becomes enlarged.
3) Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy- More common in cats, this disease is characterized by thickening of the heart’s muscle, making it an ineffective pump.