A heart problem can affect your pet at any age although it is more often found in older pets. Heart failure occurs when the heart no longer has the ability to pump blood around the body effectively. Heart failure can lead to congestive heart failure. If an animal is suffering from congestive heart failure, it usually accumulates fluid in the lungs although it can result in fluid accumulation in the abdomen as well. Animals suffering from congestive heart failure often experience difficulty breathing and frequent coughing. Some causes of heart failure include: congenital heart disease (animals born with a heart problem), valvular heart disease (abnormalities of the valves of the heart), heartworm disease and arrythmias (rhythm disturbances).
Many heart problems can be identified on physical examination. Additional tests are usually required to accurately identify the cause of the heart disease. Additional tests include electrocardiograms (ECG), radiographs (X-rays) and ultrasounds.
Along with urinalysis and blood work, we recommend routine heart screens on our older pets to detect any abnormalities. This can be done during the detailed physical exam.
Heart disease is a serious life threatening condition but early diagnosis and appropriate therapy can extend your pet’s life.