A heart problem can affect your pet at any age although it is more often found in older pets. Heart failure occurs when the heart no longer has the ability to pump blood around the body effectively.
Some causes of heart failure include: congenital heart disease (animals born with a heart problem), valvular heart disease (abnormalities of the valves of the heart)), heartworm disease, arrythmias (rhythm disturbances), and cardiomyopathy (in dogs the heart wall becomes very thin, in cats the heart wall becomes very thick).
The most common heart condition in dogs is congestive heart failure.
If an animal is suffering from congestive heart failure, it usually accumulates fluid in the lungs although it can result in fluid accumulation in the abdomen as well. Animals suffering from congestive heart failure often experience difficulty breathing and frequent coughing. Reduced exercise tolerance is another symptom.
The most common heart condition in cats is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This is a condition in which the heart wall becomes very thickened.
Cats can also suffer from hypertension, as do humans. This can lead to hemorrhages in the retinas of the eyes and blindness.
Dogs and cats with cardiomyopathy can die suddenly.
Many heart problems can be identified on physical examination. Additional tests are usually required to accurately identify the cause and extent of the heart disease. Additional tests include ECGs (electrocardiograms), radiographs (X-rays), and ultrasounds.
Heart disease is a serious life threatening condition but early diagnosis and appropriate therapy can extend your pet’s life.