Heart Disease in Dogs and Cats

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What is Heart Disease?

Heart disease in animals is either congenital (they are born with it) or acquired (developed due to an underlying cause). The congenital disease is usually seen in younger animals, affecting many smaller breeds, whereas acquired heart disease is generally seen in older dogs and cats.

Small breed dogs often develop leaky heart valves due to degenerative changes. Cats and large breed dogs are more likely to develop heart muscle dysfunction. The acquired disease is caused by trauma, infection, or degeneration.

Congestive heart failure is usually caused by the heart’s inability to pump blood forward in a normal manner. Stress is placed on the heart muscle and valves and a back-up of blood may occur in the lungs and liver. Heart disease is often diagnosed with radiographs (x- rays), ECF, and an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart).

 

What Symptoms Can Present as the Disease Progresses?

Early stages:

  • Reduced activity/lethargy
  • Increased sleeping
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Coughing – especially at night or early am
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Possible fainting spells

Late stages:

  • Persistent early stages
  • Severe weight loss
  • Distended abdomen
  • Vomiting/diarrhea
  • Blue gray-colored gums
  • Leg swelling
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fluid lung sounds
  • Unable to rest
  • Unable to rise

Crisis – Immediate veterinary assistance needed regardless of disease:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Prolonged seizures
  • Uncontrollable vomiting/diarrhea
  • Sudden collapse
  • Profuse bleeding – internal or external
  • Crying/whining from pain*

*It should be noted that most animals will instinctually hide their pain. Vocalization of any sort that is out of the ordinary for your pet may indicate that their pain and anxiety have become too much for them to bear. If your pet vocalizes due to pain or anxiety, please consult with your tending veterinarian immediately.

 

 

Common Signs of Pain

Panting, lameness, difficulty sleeping, pacing, abnormal posture, body tensing, poor grooming habits, tucked tail, dilated pupils, licking sore spot, muscle atrophy, decreased appetite, vocalizing/yowling, reclusive behavior, aggressive behavior, avoiding stairs/jumping, depressed, unable to stand.

How Is Heart Disease Treated?

There are many treatments available for congestive heart failure, each one focusing on the underlying cause of the disease. Drug therapies may be directed at correcting an irregular heartbeat, increasing the amount of blood pumped by the heart with each beat, or decreasing the amount of fluid retained in the lungs and abdomen. A diet low in salt is also an important component of therapies, as it helps minimize fluid retention in the body.

What Is the Prognosis for Congestive Heart Failure?

If caught early enough, pets with heart failure can be treated and live many more excellent years. There are times, however, that the disease is so severe and function is so compromised that quality of life is no longer present.

A personalized treatment plan is important to slow the progression of congestive heart failure or any heart disease. Talk to your veterinarian regarding the best treatment protocol for your pet.

Testimonials

I can't recommend them enough. I had to say goodbye to my 21 year old cat companion. I read the reviews here on Yelp and chose Paws Into Grace and they made an unbearable situation not worse - from the people on the phone to the amazing doctor who... read more

Renee C.

My absolute love Dante had heart failure three months ago. After having him on many medications to help him, his enthusiasm and appetite declined last couple of days. He was in pain and we decided to help him go to heaven rather than torturing him... read more

Diane C.

I wanted to thank you for sending Dr. Brown to euthanize our beloved Myleigh on March 4, 2021. She was compassionate and accommodating, she explained every step of the procedure, and gave us some alone time with Myleigh after she sedated her, but... read more

Terry A.

Renee C.

I can't recommend them enough. I had to say goodbye to my 21 year old cat companion. I read the reviews here on Yelp and chose Paws Into Grace and they made an unbearable situation not worse - from the people on the phone to the amazing doctor who came out to the house. She was so understanding and supportive. They were all so helpful, understanding and nice. My girl got to stay at home and say goodbye in the backyard (a hummingbird flew over and it seemed like a good sign too). So glad I didn't have to take her to a cold vet office.

Diane C.

My absolute love Dante had heart failure three months ago. After having him on many medications to help him, his enthusiasm and appetite declined last couple of days. He was in pain and we decided to help him go to heaven rather than torturing him with more medications which would make him even more miserable. I called and spoke to a very kind lady who was patient as I cried through making an appointment. We made an appointment for 1:30pm. Dr. Toni arrived. She was very kind, explained everything to us and gave us the time to be with our boy after the first shot. He wasn't relaxing enough so she gave him a second shot. We stayed with him throughout the entire process and I carried him to her car in the end. It was a very difficult decision but knowing that our boy is not in pain, gives us some peace. We are thankful to Dr. Toni for her kindness and compassion. They will arrange the cremation for us. Since we are in a pandemic, we had our masks on and said goodbye to our boy in our garden.

Terry A.

I wanted to thank you for sending Dr. Brown to euthanize our beloved Myleigh on March 4, 2021. She was compassionate and accommodating, she explained every step of the procedure, and gave us some alone time with Myleigh after she sedated her, but before she attached the IV. We were relieved that we made the decision to let her go to doggy heaven at home. It was a tranquil and serene passing for her, and it very much aids us in the grieving and healing process knowing that she passed away so peacefully. Based on the grace and compassion Dr. Brown demonstrated on one of the most awful days of our lives we would not hesitate to recommend Paws Into Grace for others facing this very painful time.
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