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5 Common Types of Heart Disease in Pets

5 Common Types of Heart Disease in Pets

Just like humans, our pet's heart is a vital organ that performs the important task of pumping oxygenated blood throughout the body. Today, our Franklin vets discuss 5 common types of heart disease in pets.

Heart disease of any kind can have a devastating effect on your pet's entire body, but there are some types that occur more often than others in our beloved cats and dogs. Below, we discuss 5 of the most common types of heart disease found in cats and dogs. 

Valvular Degeneration

Your dog or cat's heart, which is similar in structure to our own, can experience deterioration of the atrial and ventricular valve as the animal ages. 
The most commonly seen kind of valvular degeneration is Degenerative Mitral Valve Disease (DMVD), a condition wherein the mitral valve weakens and becomes compromised, allowing blood to flow backward slightly when the heart beats.  This process, known as mitral valve regurgitation., can cause the heart to enlarge; this puts some dogs at risk of developing congestive heart failure (CHF).

DMVD usually affects dogs that are small-breed and older in age. Though most dogs develop a mild case, there are some that will require management throughout their lifetime. 

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)

DCM is a family of diseases in dogs that results in weakening of the heart muscle. As a result, less blood is pumped out of the heart with each heartbeat, causing the walls to stretch and the chambers to dilate, or become larger, placing dogs at risk of developing CHF. DCM most often affects large- and giant-breed dogs, with some breeds at higher risk including Doberman Pinschers, Boxers, and Great Danes. 

The unfortunate news is that naturally occurring DCM is irreversible and will continue to advance. If diagnosed early, your pet's veterinary cardiology team can provide care to ensure a longer period of time without symptoms, which can improve your pooch's quality of life. 

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the most frequently diagnosed kind of heart disease in cats, and it is caused by the abnormal thickening of the left ventricle, leading to higher blood pressure and ain increased chance of congesticv heart failure. Blood clots are also at a higher risk of developing in cats with this condition, often travelling from the heart to the hind legs.

Spotting any illness in cats is a challenge, as they are unfortunately adept at hiding signs of pain or illness. The symptoms of HCM are often difficult to identify until your feline friend experiences congesitve heart failure (CHF) or experiences severe consequences from a blood clot.

Because the symptoms are so hard to detect, it's imperative that cats be taken to the vet for their routine physical examinations; part of the overall screening includes checking your feline friend for signs of heart disease.

If your vet identifies signs of HCM, they will likely perform cardiac diagnostic testing to confirm the presence or absence of the disease, and whether it requires medication. HCM isn't curable, but many cats with the condition can live lives without CHF or blood clots, provided their condition is properly managed by their owners and vets. 

Heart Arrhythmias

Your animal companion's heartbeats are controlled by electrical impulses stimulating the heart muscle. In cases where these impulses initiate improperly, travel along the wrong 'pathway', or disperse incorrectly through your pet's whole conduction system, an arrhythmia could develop. 

Common arrhythmias in pets include:

  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Tachycardia (increased heart rate)
  • Bradycardia (decreased heart rate)
  • Premature ventricular contractions
  • Heart block

Arrhythmias can be identified by your pet's veterinarian during routine wellness checks, but there are also some symptoms that you might see at home, including:

  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Collapse
Sometimes, your vet may require your pet to wear a monitor to record their heart activity over the span of 24 hours in order to get a clearer picture of their condition. Treatments could include medication or the use of a pacemaker.

Congenital Heart Disease

Pets who are born with abnormal heart development suffer from congenital heart diseases, and are usually identified by the veterinarian during a puppy or kitten's physical examination. An ultrasound will be taken to pinpoint what kind of congenital heart disease is developing so that treatment can begin before the condition worsens.

Common congenital heart diseases include:

  • Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA)
  • Pulmonic stenosis
  • Subaortic stenosis
  • Ventricular septal defect (VSD)
Certain kinds of congenital heart diseases can be treated with minimally invasive surgeries, and many pets recuperate quickly and return to their lives with their beloved families. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your pet has been diagnosed with heart disease, get in touch with our Franklin vets for professional, compassionate care. 

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