Heart Disease

The term heart disease indicates that something in the heart is not healthy, but the heart is not failing to meet the demands of the body yet. Pet hearts are very similar to human hearts; they both have four main valves: a mitral valve, tricuspid valve, pulmonic valve, and aortic valve. When there is damage to one of these valves, or the heart muscle is becoming thickened, stiff, or dilated like a balloon, heart disease is present.  Once the heart can no longer meet the demands of the body, heart failure occurs.

Heart disease can sometimes be detected during your pet's annual wellness examination. Auscultation of the heart can often reveal a heart murmur or heart arrhythmia.  If these are noted, your veterinarian will know that there is a good possibility that your pet will develop heart failure in the future.  At this point, specific tests to evaluate the severity of heart disease or look for an underlying cause for heart disease are warranted.  Once these tests are completed, your veterinarian will determine if treatment needs to be initiated to slow the progression of disease and prevent heart failure.

Tests Used to Evaluate Heart Disease

  • Physical Examination:  listen for heart murmurs, heart arrhythmias, pulse deficits
  • Chest Radiographs: evaluate heart size, shape, and presence of fluid in the chest cavity or lungs
  • Electrocardiogram:  evaluate heart size, heart rate, heart rhythm, used to determine if the left or right side of the heart is enlarged
  • Cardiac ultrasound:  evaluate blood flow through the heart, heart valves and thickness of the heart muscle
  • Heartworm test
  • Complete screening wellness blood panel

How is heart disease treated?

If heart disease is diagnosed, a determination of whether treatment is indicated will depend on the results of additional diagnostic testing.  If there is an underlying cause for the heart disease, treatment for that issue will be addressed. If there are no symptoms of heart failure, your veterinarian will formulate a monitoring plan that focuses on periodic reevaluation of your pet to assess their heart and determine if they have progressed into heart failure. 

If you have any questions about heart disease or think your pet is demonstrating possible symptoms, please contact our office.

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