On the way to a Healthy Canine heart
Keep your dog's heart healthy
Pet owners may not realize that heart disease is a fairly common condition in dogs just as in humans. Although heart disease mostly affects older dogs, it doesn’t hurt to think about preventative care even if your dog is still a puppy. There are important steps dog owners can take even in the early years that will help maintain your dog’s heart health.
A small percentage of dogs are afflicted with a heart condition since birth. A congenital heart condition happens when a dog is born with a cardiac abnormality which needs to be corrected. Most heart disease, however, is acquired. This means that dogs usually are not born with heart trouble, but develop it over the years. There are certain aspects of your dog’s life which can influence the health of his heart. It’s good to start healthy habits early so that your dog will live a longer and better life in the later years. Regular trips to the animal clinic, a nutritious diet, and proper exercise are factors which can help keep your dog’s heart healthy.
The first step is to make yearly check-ups at the animal clinic. Your dog’s veterinarian will check for heart disease during the annual physical exam. In the early stages of heart disease, symptoms are difficult for pet owners to recognize. The symptoms are often well-masked when heart trouble starts. Some symptoms of heart disease like coughing, sneezing, weakness, weight loss and wheezing could be indicative of other illnesses which can confuse matters. A veterinarian is more likely to pick up on the beginning stages of this disease. A thorough exam will include listening to the heart, looking at the gums, finding possible organ swelling and checking the pulse. With early detection, canine heart disease is generally easier to treat before it has a chance to progress too far. The veterinarian will also suggest a heartworm test to ensure that your dog is not affected by this specific cardiac disease. Once the heartworm test comes back negative, then it is essential that you begin giving your dog a heartworm preventative medication such as Heartgard, Trifexis, Interceptor, or revolution. These medications will prevent your dog from developing heartworm disease.
If the veterinarian does suspect that your dog has acquired heart disease, some further testing will be recommended. Some tests the veterinarian may suggest are chest x-rays, blood and urine tests, an electrocardiogram (ECG) and/or an ultrasound. These procedures will give the veterinarian a better idea of how far the heart disease has progressed and which treatments would best suit your dog’s condition.
Ensuring that your dog receives a healthy, nutritious diet is another important part of canine heart health. Just as in humans, obesity is a leading factor in the development of heart disease in dogs. There are many different types of dog food to choose from these days, so ask your veterinarian which type would be best for your dog. It’s important to not give your dog too many extras treats and people food. If you and the veterinarian decide to change your dog’s diet, be sure to do it gradually in order to avoid stomach problems. Some good dog food choices which help control heart disease are Purina CV CardioVascular Formula.
Another essential component in maintaining your dog’s health is exercise. Obesity in dogs does not only come from poor diet choices, it also happens when a dog is not properly active. Making time for walks and for active play daily will help in strengthening your dog’s heart and overall health. Even if you have a hectic schedule, you can arrange to have a neighbor, a friend or a dog walker take your dog out for daily walks. Receiving proper exercise will make your dog happier and give her a better chance of living longer.
Along with a modified diet and a proper exercise routine, the veterinarian will most likely prescribe medication if your dog is diagnosed with heart disease. Which medications will depend on what type of heart disease your dog has. Some of the more commonly prescribed medicines for dogs are Vetmedin (Pimobendan), Benazepril hydrochloride (Brand Lotensin), AMLODIPINE, Norvasc, Digoxin, and Spironolactone.
Without proper treatment, heart disease will eventually lead to heart failure. This occurs when the heart becomes too weak and damaged to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. When a dog suffers from heart failure, the other organs in the body feel a tremendous strain and can’t work efficiently. When heart disease becomes this advanced, a dog will have trouble getting comfortable, have decrease in appetite and be extremely weak.
If your dog is suffering from heart disease, there is the option of a cardiac specialist. This type of specialist will be able to offer the latest treatments available for dogs with heart conditions. Ask your dog’s veterinarian for information about this option or for a referral.
There are steps you can take to improve your dog’s heart health. Routine trips to the animal clinic, healthy eating habits, adequate exercise will all help lead to a healthy heart. Watch out for the signs of heart trouble which include coughing, sneezing, difficulty breathing, and weight loss. If your dog is diagnosed with heart disease or failure, be sure to follow the veterinarian’s recommendations. If you feel your dog needs more specialized care than seek the advice of a canine cardiologist. It’s essential to take care of your dog’s heart now so that you will be able to enjoy more years together in the future.