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Has Your Pet Got a Healthy Heart?

blog header healthy hearts

You can’t move at the moment without bumping in Valentine hearts so we thought it was a good idea to focus on some hearts that really do matter – your pet’s!

Heart disease is on the rise in Britain’s pets, but prompt identification of the problem and appropriate treatment can help to ensure that the quality and length of a pet’s life can be improved.

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What happens to my pet’s heart if they have a problem?

A healthy heart pumps blood normally and efficiently around the body. In a pet with heart failure, it becomes more difficult to pump blood around the body due to narrowing of the arteries, meaning the body does not receive the blood and oxygen it needs.

Other heart issues include arrhythmia, an abnormal rhythm of the heart, and valve problems, where the heart valves either do not open enough to let blood through (stenosis) or allow blood to leak through (regurgitation). There is also a condition known as mitral valve prolapse in which the valves bulge or prolapse back into the chambers of the heart.

In cats, the most common heart problem is Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, which involves an increase in the thickness of the muscular wall of the heart.

Tips on keeping your pet’s heart healthy:

  • An annual check-up at your vets to make sure your pet’s heart is in tip-top shape
  • Make sure they’re not overweight – being overweight makes their heart work harder
  • Regular exercise appropriate to their breed, age and energy level
  • Look out for changes in your pet’s health
  • Don’t give them food meant for humans
  • Keep their teeth in good condition – dental disease can cause organ damage

Some pedigree dog breeds are known for being at particular risk of heart problems. These include:

  • Basset Hounds
  • Dachshunds
  • Irish Wolfhounds
  • Boxers
  • Great Danes
  • Dobermans
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • West Highland Terriers
  • English Bulldogs
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
  • Yorkshire Terriers
  • German Shepherds

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Are there any tell-tale signs of heart problems?

Older pets, as well as obese ones, are more at risk of developing heart issues.

Look out for:

  • Noticeable weight loss or gain
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Coughing
  • Changes in personality (eg. depression)
  • Fainting or weakness
  • Restlessness
  • Swelling (edema)
  • A heart murmur could be an early sign of a developing heart condition

Symptoms like these could be a number of different things so it is important to get them checked out by your vet.

What can you do if they have a heart problem?

There is no cure for a heart condition but we can manage the progression of the disease and improve quality of life. It is impossible to tell just how quickly a heart condition will worsen- some may be stable for years, others may progress quickly- but prompt diagnosis and treatment are vital to slowing the development of the problem.

The primary treatment method is normally medication. What your pet is prescribed and the dose will depend on the severity of the disease.

Remember that, even if you pet doesn’t seem unwell, it is important for them to have annual check-ups at the vets to identify any possible health conditions early before they have a chance to seriously affect your pet’s health. Think about just how long a year is proportionally in a pet’s life compared to yours – that’s why they need regular checks!

If you’re concerned about your pet’s health then please use our online practice finder to locate your local Medivet and seek our expert advice or book an appointment. 

Posted February 14, 2014 in Pet Care Advice

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