Animal Happiness Vet

Cats and dogs and heart disease

Cats and dogs and heart disease

Cats and dogs and heart disease


Heart disease exists in many forms and affects both dogs and cats. It’s actually one of the more common things to affect our pets. In this post I’m going to explain some of the forms of heart disease and how you can recognise them and what you can do to help, including exciting new developments in diagnosing the problem!

What is heart disease?

The heart is a very complex organ, so there are actually many different sorts of things that can go wrong with them. Interestingly, the form of heart disease that most commonly affects people – ‘heart attack’ – or myocardial infarction, doesn’t occur in dogs or cats. The conditions that do occur include;

  1. Arrhythmias – These are disorders of conduction, or the control of the “beat” of your pet’s heart. They can be a lot more tricky to diagnose, but fortunately they are quite rare.
  2. Myopathies – These are disorders of the heart muscle. There are a couple of moderately common forms of this, one in cats and 2 different ones in dogs.
  3. Valvular disease – This is the most common type of heart disease affecting dogs. It typically causes congestive heart failure as a result of the valves that are designed to keep blood going in the right direction leaking, and allowing some blood to go back in the wrong direction.

What will I see?

Heart disease can cause a wide range of clinical signs. These are the most common:

  1. Breathing difficulties (often increased rate of breaths)
  2. Coughing (sometimes this looks a bit like vomiting)
  3. Exercise intolerance
  4. Sleepiness
  5. Lack of energy
  6. Pot belly and puffy legs
  7. Mild diarrhoea

Many small breeds such as the cavalier king charles spaniel are particularly prone to mitral valve disease – classically this will cause fluid build up in the lungs and a soft moist cough – but it can be tricky and not look like we might expect.

However, one very useful thing you can do to assess your own dog is to count their number of breaths per minute, when sleeping. Once fully asleep count the number of breaths over one minute. If your dog takes 30 breaths or more over a minute you have a problem – call your vet.

How can we know for sure?

In the past diagnosis of heart disease has depended heavily on advanced imaging. Both radiology and ultrasound imaging can very effectively determine how your pet’s heart is coping. However these are both expensive and time consuming tests and sometimes require sedation or even full anaesthesia.

Isn’t there an easier way?

Dancing for happy!Yes! Animal Happiness Vets now have a cardiac blood test that we can perform at our hospital and even in your home – giving your accurate results in minutes. Regardless of the type of heart disease this test shows immediately how stressed your pet’s ticker actually is!

In many situations we will perform a radiological exam as well, particularly if the blood result is in the grey area between healthy and severely stressed. But as a first assessment this cardiac blood marker has proven itself immensely valuable to our patients.

Please contact us today to book your furry for an assessment!

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