How do I know if my pet has heart disease?
Symptoms of heart disease in animals can take many forms including activity or exercise intolerance, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, restlessness during sleep, fainting, and blueness (cyanosis). Often, heart diseases in animals will not cause obvious symptoms until the disease becomes advanced.
Primary-care veterinarians can sometimes detect the presence of heart disease through a regular physical examination before symptoms occur. Clinical signs that suggest the presence of heart disease include the presence of abnormal heart sounds (eg. heart murmurs), abnormally fast, slow or irregular heartbeat, abnormal arterial or venous pulses, or abnormal color of the membranes. Usually, a cardiac evaluation will be recommended when these abnormalities are detected.
Types of Heart Disease
Many types of heart diseases occur in animals. Some of the more common are:
Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA): persistent fetal vessel connecting the aorta and pulmonary artery
Ventricular septal defect (VSD): a hole in the heart
Pulmonic stenosis (PS): narrowing of the pulmonic valve
Subvalvular aortic stenosis (SAS): narrowing below the aortic valve
Tricuspid valve dysplasia (TVD): malformation of the tricuspid valve
Mitral Valve Disease: degeneration of the mitral valve leading to severe valve regurgitation (leak). This is the most common heart disease in dogs.
Cardiomyopathies: diseases of the heart muscle
Dilated cardiomyopathy: progressive dilation and weakness of the heart muscle
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy: thickening of heart wall
Boxer arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy: causes serious arrhythmias in boxers
Bradycardias: abnormally slow heart rhythms
Tachycardias: abnormally fast heart rhythms
Pericardial Effusion: fluid accumulation in the heart sac (pericardium)
Cardiac Arrhythmias: Improper beating of the heart, whether irregular, too fast, or too slow.
What is heart failure?
Heart failure is not specific heart disease, but rather is the final common manifestation of many types of heart disease. Heart failure can manifest as inadequate blood flow to the body (low-output heart failure), accumulation of fluid behind the heart (congestive heart failure), or both. Many different types of heart disease can result in heart failure. Symptoms of heart failure can include weakness, lack of energy, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, cough, restlessness during sleep, abdominal distension, poor appetite, or weight loss.
Heart failure can be treated. Sometimes the underlying disease causing heart failure can be corrected, reversing the heart failure. Alternatively, heart failure can be effectively treated with drug therapies for periods of months to years depending on underlying causes.
How do we treat heart disease?
Heart diseases can be effectively corrected or managed through a variety of Medical, Interventional, or Surgical Therapies.