We’ve had some great rains lately and to have muddy paws is a great thing after the recent drought years. But with rains come the mosquitoes! Just like everything else in Texas, our mosquitoes appear to be huge!
Heart disease is a fairly common diagnosis in both dogs and cats. The key to managing the disease and having your pet live for many more years is early detection. A lot of time heart disease shows up in middle aged and older pets.
So what are some signs to look for that would require a visit to your veterinarian for more investigation?
First, a persistent cough that’s just recently started and is worse at night may be a sign. This cough may also show when your pet gets up from a sitting or down position. This symptom is more directed to dogs as cats generally do not cough.
Another sign is that your pet may not have the same endurance as they’ve had previously while playing and exercising. This is a definite red flag and should have you making that appointment with your veterinarian. Your pet may breathe harder while playing as well and you may notice purplish or blue gums.
A pet may faint or collapse during normal activity or at higher risk of fainting during exercise or playtime if the heart disease is advanced. Cats may also appear to be temporarily paralyzed and very vocal during these episodes. This is a drop everything and rush to your veterinarian moment.
Your dog or cat may also show signs of respiratory distress by having an increased respiration rate while sleeping or resting. Typical respiration rate is 32 breaths per minute. If your pet is breathing faster than that or seems to be putting lots of effort into breathing, this may be a clear symptom of heart disease.
If your pet is beginning to have heart issues, a change in their behavior may be seen. Cats may withdraw from your attention and may hide more. Dogs may become restless and may pace and appear to be anxious and unable to relax, especially during the nighttime hours.
A pet with long term heart health issues may show either an increase or decrease in weight. Sometimes, there will be a loss of weight while other times, a pet may gain weight or appear to have an overinflated belly. This is a possible result of fluid buildup in the abdomen area.
Poor breeding practices may result in puppies and kittens being born with heart issues. So many of our dog breeds have heart issues. Responsible breeders will realize this and do testing on any breeding animals. They do not want to pass on heart issues to puppy buyers.
A common type of heart disease in our feline friends is called Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy which is a condition where the walls and ventricles become too thick for the heart to work properly.
If you share your home with a cat, you know that cats will mask any illness extremely well. It’s important that you look for the slightest of change in your cat and seek veterinary attention. Remember that our cats do not cough. More common symptoms for them will be open mouth breathing and panting and having to rest often while roaming thru the house.
To help reduce your pet’s chances of acquiring heart problems, be sure to feed a high quality meat based diet. Try to avoid foods (and treats) that have lots of fillers such as grains, preservatives or dyes.
Help your pet maintain a healthy body weight by feeding the right amount of food along with plenty of exercise. Your pet’s dental health is also extremely important in reducing the risk of heart disease. Studies have shown that bacteria from dirty mouths have been linked to heart disease in our pets.
Most importantly, have a discussion with your veterinarian and know what type of risk your pet may have. Certain breeds of both dogs and cats are predisposed to heart issues. Also, as our pets age, their risk increases as well. Educate yourself and have routine veterinary check ups for your pet to detect any problems as early as possible.
Even if your pet is diagnosed with heart issues, they are able to live many more years with all the recent advances in veterinary medicine.
Pet columnist Katrena Hamberger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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