Cardiology is the medical field that treats a pet’s cardiovascular system, which includes the heart and blood vessels. A cardiologist can diagnose and help develop a treatment protocol for canines that suffer from:
- Congestive heart failure
- Heart disease
- Dilated and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
- Valvular Disorders
The interrelated functioning of a pet’s heart and lungs means that a cardiologist is also knowledgeable about lung disease, as well as other conditions within the chest cavity. Although general veterinary practitioners can diagnose and treat many conditions, treating heart disease requires specialized, thorough training in cardiology.
Heart Disease In Dogs and Cats
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), heart disease in dogs affects 1 of every 10 dogs worldwide. Dog heart disease is a condition in which an abnormality of the heart is present. Heart disease in dogs can lead to heart failure if untreated.
Heart disease in dogs can be either congenital or acquired:
- Congenital heart disease in dogs is present at birth, and can be inherited from the parents
- Acquired heart disease in dogs often occurs in middle-aged to older animals due to wear and tear on the heart structures, but can also result from an injury or infection
There are several common causes of congenital dog heart disease, including:
- Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA): The most commonly diagnosed of all the heart problems in dogs, and happens when the vessel connecting the aorta and pulmonary artery in the developing fetus (known as the ductus arteriosus) does not close properly shortly after birth
- Aortic stenosis (or subaortic stenosis): Most commonly seen in large breed dogs, and results in a narrowing or partial blockage of the aorta as it leaves the left ventricle of the heart. The aorta is responsible for transporting blood to the rest of the body
- Pulmonic stenosis: A narrowing of the valve that allows blood to flow from the heart to the lungs, it is the third most common congenital heart defect seen in dogs
- Ventricular septal defects: This results from the presence of a hole between the heart’s right and the left ventricles
- A persistent right aortic arch: This results from a fetal structure (known as an aortic arch) that does not deteriorate as it should, but instead it encircles a dog’s esophagus and causes abnormalities in the esophagus’ growth and function
Some common causes of acquired dog heart disease include:
- Valvular disease affects all dog breeds, but is especially common in toy and small dog breeds. The most commonly affected valve is the mitral valve, but other heart valves can also be affected
- Myocardial disease also called cardiomyopathy, affects the heart’s muscle structure. Cardiomyopathy affects all dog breeds, but is most commonly diagnosed in large dogs
- Cardiac arrhythmias are abnormal heart beats or heart rhythms resulting from dog heart disease that affects the heart’s (electric) regulatory system and thus, the ability for the heart to beat properly
- Pericardial disease affects the pericardium, or the sac that surrounds the heart, by restricting the heart so it is unable to beat properly
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), heart disease in cats affects 1 of every 10 cats worldwide. Heart disease is a condition in which an abnormality of the heart is present. Heart disease in cats is a medical precursor to congestive heart failure in cats, because heart disease can lead to congestive heart failure in cats if untreated.
Heart disease in cats can be either congenital or acquired:
- Congenital heart disease in cats is present at birth, and can be inherited from the parents
- Acquired, or adult onset heart disease in cats often occurs in middle-aged to older animals due to wear and tear on the heart structures, but can also result from an injury or infection
While cardiomyopathy is the most common form of acquired, adult onset heart problems in cats, the two most common types of congenital heart disease in cats are:
- Malformations of a heat valve
- Defects in the wall that divides the right and left halves of the heart
Both types of congenital heart disease cause blood to flow abnormally through the defect. The disturbance in the blood flow causes abnormal vibration or a heart murmur in cats. There are also various stages of heart disease and congestive heart failure in cats that veterinarians use to determine severity:
- Asymptomatic: Heart disease in cats is detected, but there is a lack of any outward signs. Additionally, a heart murmur in cats or arrhythmia may also be present.
- Mild to moderate heart failure: Significant clinical signs of congestive heart failure are in evidence both at rest and while active.
- Advanced heart failure: Critical clinical signs are evident, including respiratory distress, ascites (fluid in the body cavity), and profound exercise intolerance. The prognosis will worsen with each passing stage, and the need for aggressive treatment will increase.
Congestive Heart Failure
Congestive heart failure occurs when the heart is no longer able to support the circulatory system. Although geriatric or sedentary dogs may show no apparent symptoms of congestive heart failure until its advanced stages, habitually active adult pets usually show some common signs of distress. A few prevalent symptoms of congestive heart failure in include:
- Chronic coughing
- Rapid breathing
- Difficulty with or discontinuing exercise
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing possibly accompanied by fluid buildup in the lungs and chest
- Sudden paralysis of the hind quarters
- Fast breathing during dormancy (not panting)
- Regularly elevated heart rate
Because these symptoms of heart problems in pets can indicate one of many possible conditions, and potentially even something unrelated to the cardiovascular system, we recommend scheduling an appointment with your veterinarian immediately if you suspect anything out of the ordinary.
Early Detection Is The Key To Treating Heart Disease In Pets
Early detection of heart disease requires due diligence on the part of pet owners. After you’re your pet cannot articulate how it feels in a language we can understand. One of the most effective diagnostic tools for detecting heart disease is a cardiac examination. A cardiologist can employ some or all of the following procedures during a cardiac examination:
- Physical exam: We can listen to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope to check for abnormal sounds
- Ultrasound: We can view and measure the heart’s chamber, valves and muscles, as well as the major cardiac vessels using soundwaves and without any pain or invasion
- Blood pressure: We perform a standard, non-invasive blood pressure test to monitor systolic and diastolic pressure
- Electrocardiogram (EKG): We measure the electrical activity of the heart to diagnose heart arrhythmias among other conditions
- X-Rays: With diagnostic imaging such as x-rays, we can view the heart’s overall size, its positioning in the chest, and the general condition of the lungs
- Blood analysis: We can perform a complete blood work chemistry to detect chemical deficiencies or surpluses that indicate cardiovascular issues
Scheduling Cardiology Tests For Your Cat
If you suspect that your furry friend might be at risk for, or suffering from, any heart conditions, please contact your veterinarian immediately. Here at Town & Country Veterinary Clinic your pet is very important to us and we look forward to serving you!