Our pets are like family and we want them to stay with us for however long possible. But sometimes, life can throw curveballs in the form of unpreventable health conditions, like heart disease in pets. As pet parents, it would help to know the different kinds of heart disease and how these can be identified.


Types of Heart Disease 

Both dogs and cats are at risk for heart disease, and can develop either of the following types according to CVCAVETS.com

  1. Valvular Disease – abnormal heart valves leading to heart enlargement
  2. Myocardial Disease – heart muscle becomes weak or thick
  3. Arrhythmias – condition that causes irregular heartbeat
  4. Pericardial Disease – protective sac around the heart fills with fluid
  5. Heartworm Disease – heartworm infestation damages heart, lungs, and arteries
  6. Congenital Disease – born with a malformed heart that can lead to progressive heart enlargement


Here are 10 the common symptoms of heart disease in pets to watch out for:


  1. Persistent cough
  2. Difficulty breathing
  3. Fainting/collapsing
  4. Abdominal swelling
  5. Less tolerance to exercise
  6. Heart murmur
  7. Change in heart rate
  8. Change in body weight
  9. Restless or hiding
  10. Loss of appetite


Even though you can’t prevent heart disease, it would help to know what measures you can take to ensure your dog or cat has a healthy heart for as long as possible, and be able to identify any symptoms of heart disease early on before it’s too late.


Tips to Keep Your Pet’s Heart Healthy


Weight management: Keeping your pet at a healthy weight is good for their overall health, but it also can reduce stress on the heart. It’s crucial for all pets to maintain a healthy weight to help prevent obesity with combination of exercise and diet, but for pets with heart disease it can be particularly important. In some cases, a special weight-healthy diet may be required to help your pet combat the signs associated with heart disease.


A balanced, nutritious, and heart-healthy diet: A balanced diet helps manage your pet’s weight and also ensures that they are getting the right nutrients they need to stay healthy. It’s important to feed your pet a heart-healthy diet that includes Taurine (amino acid) and Omega-3 Fatty Acids (fish oil).


Regular exercise: Exercise strengthens your pet’s heart, helps maintains a healthy blood pressure, and reduces cholesterol. This will also help prevent developing obesity and joint problems as your pet ages. Just a precaution, if your pet has been diagnosed with heart disease, make sure to limit strenuous activity and carefully monitor your pet after every exercise or activity.


Annual exams: Heart disease is often difficult to identify for pet owners, and by the time your dog or cat shows the signs of heart disease, it is often in the late stages of the disease. Significant heart disease can be present and undiagnosed by your veterinarian long before your pet shows clinical symptoms of illness, so it is important to make regular visits to your veterinarian. Regular check ups and exams help your veterinarian monitor your pet’s heart and any other health concerns early on.


Heartworm Prevention: Heartworm is a parasite that lives in the blood vessels of an animal’s heart and lungs and is transmitted through mosquito bites. Heartworms cause severe damage to a pet’s cardiovascular function, resulting in coughing and difficulty breathing, and can often be misdiagnosed as asthma or bronchitis, thus letting it go untreated for even longer. Monthly heartworm treatments are available through a prescription from your veterinarian.


Provide dental care: Dental disease has a strong correlation to heart disease, so proper dental health should be given to your dogs and cats.


Knowing your breed: Some pet breeds are more predisposed to heart disease than others. These breeds include Maine Coon, Persian, and Siamese for cats and Boston terrier, and Chihuahua for dogs.


For specific heart diseases, some dog breeds are predisposed to cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart muscle), including New Foundlands, Great Danes and Dobermans. While heart murmurs or leaky valves are frequently seen in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. 


If you have a breed that’s prone to heart disease, it’s good to be aware of the symptoms so your veterinarian will be able to give a better diagnosis and treatment.


Diagnosing Heart Disease in Pets


Your veterinarian will conduct a physical examination of your pet, and will be looking for irregularities in their heartbeat, or any fluid present in the lungs. If your veterinarian suspects that your pet has heart disease, they may refer you to a veterinary cardiologist who will be able to run more advanced tests to be able to make a proper diagnosis.


These diagnostic tests include:

  • Blood pressure evaluations
  • Echocardiograms, which are non-invasive ultrasounds that look at your pet’s heart
  • Electrocardiograms, or EKG, which record the electrical activity of the heart
  • Radiography or digital x-rays


Although there is no surefire way to prevent heart disease in dogs and cats, pet parents can take steps to help their beloved pet live a long, healthy and happy life they deserve.