Veterinary Cardiology:

Getting to the Heart of Pet Health

Dog with staff

Heart disease is fairly common among dogs and cats, especially once they become senior pets. Certain breeds are also more prone to developing heart conditions, including Boxers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and Maine coon cats, to name a few. That’s why it’s so important to have regular pet wellness exams. The earlier a pet heart problem is diagnosed and treated, the better it will be for your pet’s overall health and well-being.

At Town & Country Animal Hospital, our veterinarians will carefully screen your pet to ensure that he or she is healthy. If there are any symptoms of heart trouble—such as coughing, labored breathing, lethargy, or weakness—we have advanced veterinary diagnostic tools available in-house to assist us in identifying the underlying cause.

These tools include digital pet X-rays to obtain a detailed image of the heart’s size and shape, a Doppler blood pressure machine to accurately measure your pet’s blood pressure, and electrocardiography (EKG) to check the rhythm and electrical impulses of your pet’s heart.

Four of the most common pet heart conditions that we diagnose and treat are:

Congestive heart failure—Just as with humans, a pet diagnosed with this condition has a weakened heart muscle that can no longer adequately pump and circulate blood throughout the body. Over time, this can lead to disease in other major organs as a result of compromised blood flow.

Chronic valvular disease—This heart condition is most commonly found in smaller canine breeds and involves damage to the heart’s valves. The valves undergo changes in thickness and shape, making them unable to function properly and resulting in faulty blood flow. The most common symptom of this disease is a distinct heart murmur.

Dilated cardiomyopathy—Larger breeds of dog are more prone to experience this condition, where the heart becomes enlarged and weakened, leading to compromised blood flow. Symptoms can be vague and may include decreased appetite, coughing, breathing difficulties, weakness, and fainting.

Feline cardiomyopathy—When a cat is afflicted with this condition, the walls of the heart become thick, leading to a decrease in the heart’s pumping capacity. Just as with dogs, symptoms of this condition can be vague. While the most common symptom is a heart murmur, other signs may include decreased appetite, breathing difficulties, weakness, and sometimes, sadly, even sudden death.

Although not all heart conditions can be prevented, there are steps you can take to ensure that your pet is heart healthy. These include keeping your pet fit through a proper diet that contains the nutrients and calories necessary for his or her age and activity level. Our veterinarians are happy to provide pet nutrition counseling to assist you in identifying which food is appropriate for your pet’s changing needs.

It’s also vital that your pet be kept on heartworm preventive year round. This applies to indoor cats as well, since a mosquito that slips into the house undetected can easily infect them. Lastly, be sure to bring your pet in for regular wellness exams.

Hopefully, your pet will never require our veterinary cardiology expertise. But know that our skilled veterinarians and staff are ready, just in case.