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Cardiac Problems in Pets
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and
women, worldwide. Pet owners should also be concerned for the
hearts of their beloved animal friends. The heart is a complex
organ, and it is important to be aware of the heart diseases a pet
can develop and to know what to look for so that your pet can have
the best possible care.
"Dogs and cats can be born with cardiac problems or develop them
later in life" said Dr. Ashley Saunders, assistant professor at the
Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical
Sciences. "Some of the acquired cardiac diseases in animals are
similar to cardiac disease in people and include leaky heart valves
or a weak heart muscle resulting in heart failure. Dogs and cats
can both develop high blood pressure. Even if your dog or cat was
not born with heart problems, it is important to have them checked
regularly by a veterinarian for heart disease."
Signs of heart disease can include cough, increased breathing
rate, breathing difficulty, fainting or decreased activity level. A
heart murmur or irregular heart rhythm might be found during an
examination. Diagnostic testing, frequently using a combination of
xrays, heart ultrasound, electrocardiogram and blood pressure, is
required to diagnose the underlying heart disease and select the
most appropriate therapy. Treatment for heart failure includes a
combination of medications and lifestyle changes related to diet
and activity level. Some of the heart diseases diagnosed in puppies
can be treated with minimally invasive procedures that use small
incisions and catheters to fix problems in the heart.
"At Texas A&M we can perform minimally invasive procedures
to fix specific heart problems; but ultimately the treatment that
is used is dependent on the type of cardiac problem your pet has"
"Heartworm disease is a common problem in dogs and cats that is
transmitted by mosquitoes" said Saunders. "It is one of the only
heart related conditions that can be prevented with a monthly pill
or topical liquid placed on the neck that absorbs into the
Treatment is possible but is more costly than monthly
prevention. Dogs can be tested for heartworm disease annually.
Specific breeds that are more prone to cardiac problems than
others include Doberman Pinschers, boxers, Cavalier King Charles
spaniels and Maine coon cats. If you are the owner of one of these
breeds, be sure to check them in to your veterinarian for
appropriate health screening recommendations.
Heart problems cannot always be prevented, but most can be
detected by being aware of what to look for and having your pet
regularly evaluated by your veterinarian.
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