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Cardiology at GSVS
Heart Disease in the Dog & Cat
You may know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. But did you know that heart disease also occurs commonly in pets all across our country? Heart disease affects an estimated one in every ten dogs and cats. As our pets age, the number of animals affected by heart disease increases dramatically. By some estimations, greater than 30% of geriatric dogs are affected by heart disease. Animals can be born with heart disease, which is called congenital cardiac disease. Conversely, most of our pets are born without heart disease, but many will go on to develop heart disease later on in life. This is called Acquired Cardiac Disease.
Q. How do I know if my dog or cat has heart disease?
A. Because our pets cannot talk to us, it is often difficult to determine if our animals’ quality of life is affected by Cardiac Disease. In fact, it is very common for owners not to know their pet has heart disease until the disease is very severe. The most common signs that pets with heart disease demonstrate include difficulty breathing, coughing, exercise intolerance and intermittent weakness or even collapse. These symptoms often come on suddenly and are progressive. Fortunately, there are frequent abnormalities on the physical exam that may cause your veterinarian to suspect your dog or cat has heart disease. By performing different diagnostic tests, a complete understanding of your pet’s heart disease can be achieved.
Q. What can be done to help my dog or cat if they have been diagnosed with heart disease?
A. The exact type and extent of treatment your pet may receive depends on what their diagnosis is. In fact, not every dog or cat that is diagnosed with heart disease needs treatment. However, there are many pets with heart conditions that need treatments. The treatment each pet receives is tailored to their specific needs. For instance, there are many medications that can be given, both in the emergency setting and chronically, that will help dogs and cats with congestive heart failure. While one patient may need one or two medications to improve his quality of life and help him live a longer life, another animal with a similar condition may require six or seven medications to achieve the same goal. Even still, there are other animals that are affected by conditions that do not typically respond well to medications, but can be dramatically improved by surgical procedures such as transvenous pacemaker implantation, patent ductus arteriosus coil occlusion and balloon valvuloplasty.
Diagnostic tests which often help to define the type and extent of heart disease your dog or cat has include:
Holter monitor/event recorder
Each one of these tests is unique and provides us with certain information that the other tests could not. As a result, it is common for pets with heart disease to undergo two or more of these tests when being evaluated for heart disease.