Updated: Jul 2, 2020
As our pets get older, the risk for cardiac disease increases. Certain breeds of dogs (eg. King Charles Cavalier (pictured), Doberman Pincer) are also genetically prone to heart issues. Although harder to detect, cats are also susceptible.
Symptoms generally first noticed by owners are:
Changes in breathing
Shortness of breath
Rapid or fast breathing (more than 30 breaths per minute at rest can indicate disease)
Changes in behaviour (more noticeable in dogs)
Reluctance to exercise or not wanting to go for walks
Slowing down or lack of energy
Depression or a withdrawn demeanour
Weight loss, (contrast this with weight increase due to fluid collecting in limbs, abdomen)
Fainting or collapsing (less common)
Restlessness, especially at night
Swollen abdomen/pot belly
If you suspect your pet has any of the above symptoms, it is important to act quickly as early intervention with medication will slow the disease process, with a better chance of a longer, happier life.
Detecting cardiac issues require listening to your pet's heart, checking mucous membrane colour (gum, eyes) and feeling the distal pulses are the same rhythm as the heartbeat. We are able to detect abnormalities to heart rate, valvular disease and if there is fluid build-up impacting on their normal respiration.
If cardiac disease is suspected we perform an x-ray to examine the size and shape of your pet's heart - with an enlarged heart indicating disease - and ensure their lungs do not have fluid build-up.
Follow this link for further resources: http://vet.tufts.edu/heartsmart/
Treatment and it's effectiveness is dependent on how early the heart disease is detected. Your pet may be prescribed vasodilators/ACE inhibitor, diuretics and/or cardiotrophs. Excess weight contributes to further respiratory distress and a diet plan may be made to help your pet reach their ideal weight. Changes in lifestyle (eg. lower intensity exercise) may be warranted and will be discussed as part of you pet's treatment plan.