The heart’s primary function is to pump oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. Because of this massive responsibility, it’s critical to maintain optimal heart health throughout life. Preventing heart disease is key, but many animals are also born with cardiac challenges, so it’s equally important to recognize symptoms and provide treatment. Without medical intervention and consistent support at home, pets with heart disease can experience organ and circulatory system failure.

Reasons Why

It can be devastating to learn your pet has heart disease. There are many causes that can lead to a diagnosis, including:

  • Congenital heart defects
  • Mitral valve disease
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Arrhythmia
  • Heartworm disease
  • Pericardial effusion

Common Symptoms

Pets with heart disease don’t all have the same symptoms. In fact, they vary by individual species, breed, age, and underlying health issues. Some pets with heart disease show obvious symptoms; others might not have any. If you ever observe the following red flags, it’s time to seek veterinary care:

  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing (especially with little or no exertion)
  • Bloating
  • Fainting
  • Lethargy or reduced interest/ability to exercise
  • Blue tinge to the gums or tongue
  • Weight and appetite loss
  • Changes in behavior, like restlessness
  • Weakness in the rear limbs

Helpful Tools

Pets exhibiting symptoms of heart disease may require certain diagnostic testing before formal diagnosis and treatment. A physical examination may lead to x-rays, blood tests, electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, cardiac catheterization, or even a monitor to check for arrhythmia.

Life-sustaining medications and surgery can often help pets with heart disease. However, at-home treatment and care are especially critical to supporting lifelong health, such as:

  • Balanced diet with nutritional supplements
  • Monitoring weight
  • Easy access to fresh water
  • Routine administration of cardiac medications
  • Year-round parasite prevention
  • Adequate (but not excessive) opportunities for exercise
  • Good dental health (toxic oral bacteria can harm the heart)
  • Routine wellness examinations
  • Recorded observations that could lead to early diagnosis

Pets With Heart Disease

At Dickinson Animal Hospital & Pet Wellness Center, we know that moving forward quickly with a diagnosis and effective treatment can make all the difference for pets with heart disease. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns. We’re always here for you and your pet!