Cardiac Problems in Cats and Dogs

Published: May 3, 2020

Academy Animal Hospital Greenwood

How’s your pet’s heart? It can be tricky to identify the symptoms of heart trouble in cats and dogs because they can’t tell us when something’s wrong. But early detection of cardiac issues is critical to maintaining your pet’s health.

Here’s a closer look at some of the most common heart conditions in pets. As you read through them, consider whether your pet could be at risk.

Chronic Valvular Disease

The most common type of heart disease in dogs is chronic valvular disease (CVD). It occurs when the valves degrade over time and loose their natural shape. As a result, your dog’s heart loses full function because its valves are misshapen.

Although cats are occasionally born with a congenital form of CVD, they don’t seem to develop it over time the way dogs do. So this is more of a concern for dogs than cats, especially older dogs who seem to be showing weakness, quick exhaustion, and a rapid heartbeat.

Leaky Valve Disease

Your dog could also develop degenerative atrioventricular valve disease, also known as leaky valve disease. It’s another disease that doesn’t usually affect cats and tends to arise in older and smaller dogs.

If your dog is age 8 or older and is any of the following breeds, they should be checked for leaky valve disease: Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Miniature Schnauzers, Miniature Poodles, Chihuahuas, Shih Tzus, Maltese, Cocker Spaniels, Dachshunds, Whippets, and Pomeranians.

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Here’s a disease that accounts for 80% of cases of heart disease in domestic cats but is rare in dogs. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the most common acquired form of heart disease in cats.

In this disease, the heart can’t relax or pump properly because the heart muscle has thickened. It can develop in a cat of any age and breed but is mostly found in Maine Coon and Ragdoll cats. Ask your vet about your cat’s risk for HCM.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is diagnosed in both dogs and cats but is much more common in dogs. It occurs when the heart is unable to generate the pressure it needs to pump blood through the body efficiently.

Certain breeds of dogs are more susceptible to DCM than others. Those with the highest risk are Doberman Pinschers, Boxers, Cocker Spaniels, and Great Danes.

Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a concern in both dogs and cats of all breeds. It’s the diagnosis for a heart that is failing and can no longer support the animal’s body long-term. CHF is one of the biggest contributors to death, particularly for older animals.

Early symptoms of CHF include:

  • Heavy panting
  • Coughing and breathing quickly
  • Reluctance to exercise
  • Extreme exhaustion
  • Dark or bluish gums

As the disease progresses, symptoms may become more severe and your pet could struggle to breathe and move around. They may experience rapid weight loss, a swollen belly, and periods of fainting or unresponsiveness. Take these symptoms seriously and alert your veterinarian.

Seeing the Symptoms of Heart Disease

Other than encouraging an active lifestyle and providing healthy food, there are no scientifically-proven ways to prevent heart disease in cats and dogs. The best thing you can do is take your pet to the vet regularly and stay on the lookout for the heart disease symptoms described above.

If you haven’t had your pet checked for cardiac problems, now’s the time. Contact Academy Animal Hospital to set up a health checkup that includes a cardiac assessment.