How to Know If Your Pet Has Heart Disease

Cat in the sun

Pet parents are often in tune with their furry one’s health, picking up on the first sign of distress. But did you know one of the biggest threats to both cats and dogs is also one of the hardest to recognize? Heart disease is known as a silent killer because many of its symptoms can be masked as common animal behaviors and can strike suddenly. The good news is you can still be proactive in protecting your pet from heart disease, and Germantown Vet can help.  

Types of Heart Disease & Symptoms to Watch For

There’s more than one kind of heart disease that affects pets. The first is valve disease (when the valve thickens and becomes distorted) and is more common in dogs. The other is a disease of the heart muscle and is more commonly seen in cats. There are four classifications of this type, which you can learn more about here.

As with any serious illness, early diagnosis is incredibly important to the effectiveness of treatment. The only way to know which type of heart disease is affecting your pet is with proper testing from a trained professional. You should schedule an appointment right away if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Weakness
  • Fainting or collapsing
  • Changes in behavior
  • Restlessness
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Increased respiratory rate and effort
  • Coughing
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Bloated abdomen
  • Swelling of the legs
  • Cyanosis (purple coloration of the gums), if the heart failure is severe enough

As we mentioned earlier, some of these symptoms are also normal animal behaviors (cats being lethargic, anyone?). However, we’re talking about excessive behaviors that aren’t part of their usual routine, such as a loss of interest in food or playing. A cat’s respiratory distress often shows itself through vomiting or rapid, open-mouthed breathing. Another key sign in cats is difficulty walking, particularly in the hind legs, as a result of blood clots.

New Testing Options for Cats

Heart disease is particularly dangerous to cats, as one in six cats can be born with or develop the illness in their lifetime. This can happen at any age (young or old) and affects both indoor and outdoor cats.

A cat owner’s main line of defense has always been annual vet check-ups, but a new option has emerged in the last few years that could detect heart disease even earlier. It’s a blood test called proBNP, and it’s actually been used in humans for years. It can also be used to screen dogs, but it’s especially beneficial for cats. The proBNP test is a simple, inexpensive blood test that can be done in most veterinarian offices. It measures stretching of the heart due to disease, and can establish a baseline of a cat’s heart condition without a more expensive echocardiogram. Plus, if your young cat had a relative with heart disease, the proBNP test is a way to check for genetic predisposition.

Germantown Vet Can Help

At Germantown Vet, we understand how difficult it can be when a pet is sick. Our trained and experienced technicians are here to guide you through the process, from wellness checks to specialized testing (including the proBNP blood test) at our state-of-the-art facility for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

You can trust your furry loved one to our care! Call Germantown Vet today at 240-252-7467 or visit us online to learn more about our heart disease services.

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