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.

My Cat Licked Off the Flea Medicine

Flea medicines are an important way to protect your cat from the frustration and potential danger of a flea infestation. Yet flea medication must be added topically, and sometimes cats aren’t thrilled with the process. This can cause them to lick the area where you apply the medication, making you wonder if you have cause for concern. If you’re wondering, “What happens if the flea medicine for my cat is ingested?” here is a closer look at what you need to know.

Is Flea Medicine Toxic?

When applied as directed, flea medication is a safe way to control these harmful pests. However, when used incorrectly, all topical flea medications contain the risk of toxicity. Both pyrethrin-based and organophosphate-based flea medications carry this risk. Cats are more sensitive to the toxic effects of these ingredients than dogs.

Can Cats Lick Flea Medicine?

When applied correctly, flea medicine should be applied in the area right below the cat’s neck, close to the skin. This is a particularly hard-to-reach area. However, some cats who are particularly limber, as well as cats who bat the area with their paws, can ingest some of the flea medications. If this happens, you will need to watch closely for signs of toxicity, and seek medical care right away if you see any.

What Are the Signs of Flea Medicine Toxicity?

If you suspect that your cat has ingested flea medicine, watch her closely. The signs of toxicity will appear within one to 12 hours of ingesting the medication. For pyrethrin-based medications, excessive salivation and muscle tremors are common symptoms. For organophosphates, which are more dangerous, danger signs include diarrhea, vomiting, breathing problems, muscle tremors, weakness, and drooling.

If you notice these symptoms, call your vet immediately. Then, wash your pet with warm water and a mild detergent. If your vet cannot see your pet, take her to the emergency vet. These medications can quickly become fatal if left untreated.

Can a Cat Recover from Ingesting Flea Medication?

If you are able to get veterinary care right away, your cat should make a full recovery. Your cat may need IV fluids and supportive care at home, and some cats need hospitalization. However, if treatment is prompt, most survive their run-ins with flea medication.

How to Prevent Flea Medication Poisoning

While cats can recover from flea medication toxicity, it’s best to avoid the problem altogether. Consider these tips to reduce the risk of flea medication toxicity events:

  • Use only products intended for cats.
  • Use only the prescribed amount.
  • Apply the medication in the appropriate place.
  • Avoid the use of flea medication on kittens.
  • Separate pets when applying medication, and keep them separated until the product is dry.

For more information about protecting your cat from fleas as well as the potential dangers of flea control medications, contact Germantown Vet. You can call us at 240-252-7467 or reach out online to schedule an appointment.

What to Do When Your Dog Eats Chocolate

Sweet, sweet chocolate. You give it as a gift, eat it as a treat, and maybe even flavor your coffee with a bit of mocha. As much as humans love it, it’s not so kind to man’s best friend. Chocolate is actually toxic for dogs and ingesting too much can end up seriously affecting your pet’s health. Read on to learn what makes chocolate toxic and what to do if you encounter a chocolate poisoning emergency.

Continue reading “What to Do When Your Dog Eats Chocolate” »

What Dog Food Is Best?

You know your diet greatly impacts your health, so you probably watch what you eat. Do you give the same courtesy to your dog? If you want your pet to avoid some of the most common illnesses caused by poor diet—including obesity, arthritis, diabetes, gum disease, and cancer—you must take pet nutrition seriously. Here’s what dog food ingredients to look for and what to avoid.

Continue reading “What Dog Food Is Best?” »

When Do Dogs Stop Growing?

If you recently adopted a puppy, you may be curious to know when he will stop growing. Besides satisfying your curiosity, it’s important to recognize when your dog is fully grown, so you know when to invest in that expensive collar, harness, or dog bed without fear of your pup outgrowing it. If you rescued your dog from an animal shelter, you can also better predict his age if you know when his particular breed stops growing. This guide can help.

Continue reading “When Do Dogs Stop Growing?” »