Protect your pet’s heart- February is American Heart Month!
Everyone thinks of hearts in February, thanks to Valentine’s Day. However, February is also American Heart Month, referring to the heart, literally. Pets have their own risks to heart health, and awareness is the best weapon to keeping your pet healthy for the long run.
Heartworm disease: Most pet owners are familiar with heartworm disease. This mosquito borne parasite is extremely prolific in the southeast, but is found in all 50 states. If left untreated, heartworm disease can be fatal and treatment is expensive and painful for your dog. The natural host for heartworm is the dog, but did you know that cats can be infected with heartworm as well? Unfortunately for cats, there is no treatment and often the first symptom of infection is sudden death. The good news, however, is that prevention is very effective, both for dogs and cats. Be sure to speak with your veterinarian about protecting all of your furry family members.
Heart disease in dogs: Like people, dogs can develop heart disease, either as a congenital condition or developed as they age. Clinical signs can vary, but the most common symptoms include exercise intolerance, cough or fainting episodes. Diagnostics such as x-ray and heart ultrasound (echo) can help diagnose heart disease so that appropriate treatments can be implemented. Always report any changes in your dog’s breathing or the development of a new, persistent cough to your veterinarian.
Heart disease in cats: Cats are also at risk for heart disease. More often than not, it is of the congenital (hereditary) variety and may manifest itself at an earlier age. Larger breed cats, such as the Maine Coon, are overrepresented for heart disease, so thorough and regular (every 6 months) examinations are even more important for these types of cats. Heart disease can present very differently in cats, and they can present suddenly in a life threatening condition. Increased respiratory effort, particularly at rest (breathing with the abdominal muscles instead of from the chest), open mouth breathing or panting, or difficulty walking with crying out can all be symptoms of heart disease and should be addressed by your veterinarian immediately.
So as we leave February, the month of hearts, remember to keep an eye on your furry friends that are close to your heart and call us if you have any concerns- we are here for you!