Protecting Your Pet’s Heart
February is American Heart Month, and we’re honoring Heart Month by educating pet owners on heart health for their pets. Did you know that nearly 10% of cats and dogs suffer from heart disease? Like humans, animals can develop heart disease due to genetics, age-related complications, or as a result of other health issues. While heart disease can be fatal, animals can live long, happy, and healthy lives through early detection and disease management. Healthy lifestyle choices are the key to preventing heart disease that’s unrelated to age or genetics.
When it comes to any health issue, the best tool you have is early detection. It’s vital to managing disease and health concerns, your pet’s overall well-being, and prolonging their life. Fortunately, heart problems can be detected before symptoms arise. Be sure to maintain routine, yearly check-ups with your vet. It could save your furbaby’s life!
Symptoms of Heart Disease include:
- Difficulty breathing
- For cats: Panting or open-mouth breathing
- Weakness or fatigue
- Loss of appetite
- Rapid weight loss
- Irregular heart beat
Maintaining a healthy weight and feeding your furbaby a balanced diet are the best ways to keep heart disease at bay. Both dogs and cats should eat a meat-based diet as suggested by their veterinarian. A cat’s diet must include taurine, a necessary group of amino acids that they do not naturally produce on their own. Taurine is found only in meat-based foods.
Currently, there is no conclusive evidence that relates grain-free diets to heart disease in dogs and cats, but there has been an increase in heart complications in dogs and cats considered low-risk that eat an exclusively grain-free diet. As such, the FDA is studying the issue. However, vets are no longer recommending grain-free or entirely raw meat diets due to health complications and bacteria that can enter the bloodstream and cause heart valve complications. As always, check with your veterinarian before making alterations to your pet’s diet.
For any living being, regular exercise is important for a healthy heart. Though it varies due to breed and age, dogs require at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. Working and hunting breeds require an additional 1-2 hours of active play each day. Cats need about 15 minutes of activity, but sometimes, this can be a challenge. Remember that your pet’s favorite plaything is you! Get involved in their activities. If you’re furbaby doesn’t have the endurance or interest in active play, start with short activity sessions multiple times a day.
Heartworm and Parasite Prevention
Pests are a nuisance, and they can carry infectious agents that can affect your furbaby’s overall health, not to mention their heart. Regular heartworm prevention in dogs is crucial to prevent serious medical issues. It’s recommended that dogs and cats get a heartworm blood test every 2-3 years and more frequently if they don’t receive regular preventative medication. While cats may not necessarily spend as much time outdoors or in soil where these pests live, the threat is still high. Fleas, mosquitoes, and ticks can carry agents that could be harmful to your pet’s heart. Parasite prevention is crucial in keeping your pet safe and healthy.
We love our pets with all our heart, so it’s our responsibility to make sure their little hearts are healthy and happy. Knowing the signs of heart disease and focusing on prevention is the best chance you have in avoiding heart disease.