How To Keep A Dog's Heart Healthy

Just like people, dogs are at risk for Heart Disease too.  In fact, it is estimated that nearly 8 million dogs suffer from heart disease. That translates into 10% of all dogs living in the U.S.  Heart disease can seriously impact your dog's quality of life, and his longevity.  

It would be simple if there was just one thing that caused a dog or cat to get heart disease, we could just address that one thing and be done with it. But there is no one single cause for heart disease in dogs. Several factors can contribute to it, and senior dogs are considered to be at greater risk for heart disease.

I had the opportunity to speak about Pet Heart Health with Dr. Claire Walther, DMV and Petcare Medical Lead at Zoetis animal health company. After practicing at both Banfield and in an independent general Veterinary practice, Dr. Walther's passion for educating pet parents and other Veterinarians led her to join Zoetis.

Dr. Walther shared her expertise about heart disease in dogs, and how to keep a dog's heart healthy.  Most of what we'll be discussing applies to both a dog's heart health and cat heart health as well. So c'mon pet parents, let's dive in!

HEART DISEASE IN DOGS


In her experience as a general Veterinary practitioner, Dr. Walther has seen a wide variety of heart disease in both dogs and cats. Diseases of the heart depend on which area of the heart is impacted. In Dr. Walther's experience, the 3 most common types of heart disease she has dealt with are:

💗 Heart Murmurs, which effect the valves of the heart

💗 Chronic Heart Condition, which impacts all areas of the heart

💗 Heartworm disease, which damages the chambers and valves of the heart

A dog's heart has 4 chambers, 4 valves, and arteries that carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Dr. Walther used a really simple analogy to explain the main components and functions of the heart by comparing the heart to a house.

Think of the 4 chambers of the heart (2 upper chambers called Atria and 2 lower chambers called Ventricles) as being rooms in the house. You can think of the valves (Mitral valve, Tricuspid valve, Aortic valve and Pulmonary valve) in each chamber of the heart as being the doors to those rooms. The arteries of the heart can be thought of as hallways through the rooms and doorways of the house.

I love the house analogy! It really helps simplify how heart diseases relate to the various parts of the heart.

Heart disease in dogs, Pet heart health, Heart healthy, Dog health
Keep your dog's heart healthy!


WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF HEART PROBLEMS IN DOGS?


Symptoms of heart disease can be difficult to spot by pet owners themselves. However, in addition to seeing your Veterinarian 1 to 2 times per year for pet wellness exams, be aware of the following symptoms. If you observe any of these symptoms, contact your Veterinarian right away. Extreme symptoms likely indicate signs of a heart problem in your dog.

Extreme Symptoms Of Heart Disease In Dogs:

💗 Difficulty breathing

💗 Coughing

💗 Extreme Lethargy

💗 Heavy Panting

Milder, or early symptoms of heart disease in dogs are more difficult for a pet parent to see. You know your pet best, so if you see subtle changes like the below symptoms contact your Veterinarian:

Mild, or Early Symptoms of Heart Disease in Dogs:

💗 Changes in their normal behavior

💗 Your pet starts showing mild coughing or panting, if they haven't had that issue before

Small changes like these are the first indicator that something might be wrong. It's important to take your dog to the Vet at least once a year, and more often if your pet is a senior or if they have known health issues.

As part of a pet's exam, your Veterinarian will listen to all four chambers of your dog's heart to see if there might be an issue.

SCREENINGS FOR HEART DISEASE IN DOGS THAT YOUR VET MIGHT PERFORM:


In addition to listening to your dog's heart for signs of any anomalies, your Veterinarian may also perform one or more of these screenings:

💗 Heartworm Antigen test to see if your dog currently has heartworms. This test is usually routinely administered during your dog or cat's regular physical exams

💗 X-Rays of your dog's heart, if your Veterinarian feels it's necessary

💗 An Ultrasound of your dog's heart might be done if heart disease is suspected, or known by your Veterinarian


HOW A DOG'S WEIGHT EFFECTS HEART HEALTH


Dogs share many of the same risks for heart disease that humans do. Obesity is one of the most common conditions of heart disease. Being obese can contribute to worsening the condition, or may lead to the start of new types of heart disease. Follow your Vet's advice on how to keep your dog at a healthy weight.

Ask your Vet to go over what a healthy weight looks like on your dog. As a general guideline, from the side you should be able to see just some of the dog's ribs but they should not be sticking out. You should be able to feel the dog's ribs by lightly touching them. From front to back, the dog's body should have an hour-glass shape. Ask your Vet if s/he has a visual to review with you, similar to this Dog Body Condition graphic provided by Zoetis:

Dog Heart Health, How to keep a dog's heart healthy, optimal dog body condition, #dog #cat #pets #dogs #hearthealthy
Dog Body Condition Chart, courtesy of Zoetis 

  

HOW TO KEEP A DOG'S HEART HEALTHY



Dr. Walther suggests 4 Things You Should Do To Help Keep Your Dog's Heart Healthy:

💗 Take your dog to the Veterinarian for annual health exams, more than once a year if your dog is a senior or has other health issues

💗 Keep your dog active with exercise

💗 Manage your dog’s weight, and follow your Vet's advice for keeping her at a healthy weight

💗 Administer Heartworm preventative medication all year round


HEARTWORM DISEASE IN DOGS


Dr. Walther talked a lot about Heartworm Disease, as it is common in dogs and can be quite deadly. I'd like to expand on that topic because heartworm disease can be fatal. It's difficult and costly to treat, and often fatal, but it is so easy to prevent! Did you know that heartworm also effects Wolves and other wild animals? I didn't! That serves to increase the ability to spread heartworm disease.

If a dog within a community has tested positive for Heartworm Disease, it will likely be spread.  Not by the infected dog himself, as Heartworm is only spread via mosquito bite.  The mosquito that infected the dog will very likely bite other dogs, cats, or wildlife, continuing to infect animals with deadly heartworm larvae.

Dr. Walther said that one of the top myths about Heartworm is that it is not present in all areas of the United States. That is false, heartworm has been found in every state.  In fact, the potential for heartworm disease to spread is actually increasing in many areas of the U.S.!  There has been a 21% increase in heartworm cases as of 2016.  

Mosquitos love heat and moisture, so heartworm disease is more prevalent in warmer climates. But pets in colder climates are still at risk most of the year, even during weeks where the weather warms up for just a short period of time. The risk further increases if they travel with their owners to warmer places during Winter, which is a growing trend.

Another common myth is that cats are at a lower risk for heartworm disease than dogs. But the truth is, a heartworm-carrying mosquito is just as happy to bite your cat as it is to bite your dog.

An increase in the spread of mosquitos, as well as new varieties of mosquitos, are one reason heartworm disease has been on the rise.  Another reason is that pets are traveling more, which can increase their exposure to infected mosquitos. The fact that not all dogs and cats are given heartworm preventative medication also increases risk and contributes to the spread of the disease.  

Heartworm disease can cause permanent damage to your dog or cat’s heart.  Dr. Walther believes every dog and cat should be protected against heartworm disease year round, but sadly only about 1 in 3 dogs are on heartworm preventative medication.

I feel strongly about protecting my pets against heartworm disease. I have always given Icy and Phoebe heartworm preventative medication, and will continue to do so throughout their lives.

Interesting Fact: Heartworm disease has been around for a very long time.  I asked Dr. Walther when and how heartworm disease in pets started. She informed me that the first report of heartworm in domestic dogs appears to date back over 400 years to the observations of Birago in 1626 on dogs in Italy! Source: Science Direct



With over 65 years of animal health experience Zoetis serves Veterinarians and those who raise and care for companion and farm animals in more than 100 countries.

Zoetis is a 2020 IHS Markit Animal Health Award Winner for their Simparica TRIO medication which was recognized as Best New Companion Animal Product. That's quite an achievement! 

PIN THIS!

How to keep a dog's heart healthy. Pet heart health. Heart health for dogs and cats
Heart Disease in dogs is a common problem

I love my dogs, and I want them to live a long, healthy life. That's why I recently started them on Simparica TRIO by Zoetis. It protects against deadly Heartworm Disease, Ticks, Fleas, Roundworms and Hookworms in one monthly chewable! That is a Game Changer! For years I've been waiting for a medication that can control Heartworm, Ticks and Fleas in one medication. In case you're wondering, NO this is NOT a sponsored post, I'm just super impressed by this company and their Simparica TRIO product!



I want to thank Dr. Claire Walther for sharing this important information about Pet Heart Health, and for her insights and advice on how we can keep our dogs' hearts healthy!

Claire Walther, DVM

Dr. Claire Walther was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio. She received her BS and DVM from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. While at Purdue University, she graduated with honors for her research. During her veterinary education, she acted as a clinical pathology technician and developed a keen understanding of clinical laboratory testing. She practiced outside Indianapolis in corporate (Banfield) and independent general practice before joining Zoetis in 2016. Dr. Walther is currently a Zoetis Petcare HQ Medical Lead.

The Walther family includes 3 dogs (Eelie, Eva, and Vanilla Bean) and two cats (Gambit and Linkin). It is the love she shares for her family, both human and animal, that fosters her drive to enhance our ability to detect, prevent and treat disease within the field of veterinary medicine.

Check out the Zoetis web site for helpful articles and information about pet health, and how to be the best pet parent you can be!  

Download a Free A - Z Pet Adopter Starter Pack with all the essentials on helping a New Pet settle in, a Pet Health Checklist, and Vet Approved Guidelines on how to keep your pet healthy. It's a wealth of information on health, behavior, quality of life and more. It's great information for both new pet parents and those of us who have had pets most of our lives!

Learn more about Zoetis and connect with them online on:

Facebook      Twitter      YouTube



Follow Dogs Luv Us And We Luv Them online too!  Our Social Media Links:






Learn more about Heartworm Disease and the Heartworm Lifecycle in my post, HEARTWORM DISEASE IN DOGS 







Have you ever had a conversation with your Veterinarian about heart disease in your pet? We love hearing from you so please leave us a comment and tell us about it!


22 comments:

  1. This is great information! Heart disease is so common and it’s important to know what to watch out for.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks! I found the interview very informative & interesting. It's true, heart health is as important for pets as it is for people.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Very informative! Although I use a different product, I've always gotten my dogs tested for heartworms yearly and keep them on a monthly preventative. Heartworm disease isn't something I'd ever want to risk! I've always also felt it was important to keep them at a healthy weight. SO many owners let their pets get overweight, and it can, sadly, cause many health issues.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You definitely don't want to mess with Heartworm disease, it's so devastating. You're right, so many owners don't keep their dogs & cats at a healthy weight, but maintaining a healthy weight is super important for pets. Thanks so much for your comments!

      Delete
  4. This is great information and so important for pet owners to be aware of! The symptoms can very easily be overlooked if you don’t know, but if you’re aware, it’s much easier to spot.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad you found the information to be useful. I agree, the symptoms of heart issues can easily overlooked if you don't really pay attention. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      Delete
  5. Heartworm disease scares me so much. While I don't like medicating my dog or exposing them to drugs, I never skip on heartworm preventive.

    And recently, the allegedly diet-induced heart problems is a scary situation too. Fortunately, raw diets don't seem to be implicated. As well as we are able to get an organ blend which includes heart.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Same here! Heartworm preventative medication is one I'd never skip, and I never have with my pets. They are far too precious! Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

      Delete
  6. This is such an important post to share. I had no idea 10% of dogs suffer from heart issues. My first cat Precious had a heart murmur when she was born and lived a full but short life. Paying attention to signs when there may be a potential problem is important. Thanks for sharing these tips. Pinning!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hadn't realized just how common heart murmurs are. Like Precious, my cat Mousey had a heart murmur and at at only about 5 his little heart gave out and I lost him. )- : Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and for Pinning! I really appreciate it.

      Delete
  7. This is so important! Learning to recognize the early warning signs may make the difference between catching heart disease early and saving your dog's life or not. As you said, YOU know your dog better than anyone so you're the person that will see the small changes before anyone else notices them. I am a huge advocate for trusting your gut and if something feels wrong, err on the side of caution and reach out to your veterinarian.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I fully agree, no one knows our pets' normal behavior better than an engaged, alert pet parent! Always reach out to your Veterinarian, they are always glad when you err on the side of caution. Thanks for your comments Britt!

      Delete
  8. Heart disease is frightening if you don't know enough about it to help your dog. We all need to be aware (sometimes I wish I knew as much as the vet!!).

    I had no idea how common heartworm could be - but I am so glad their is proper medication to make sure a dog can be kept safe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, heart disease can be very frightening. I love the tips Dr. Walther has provided to help keep pets' hearts healthy. I love that there is finally a medication that controls heartworm, ticks, fleas & a few other nasty worms! It's great to only have to remember and administer One single medication for all those nasties!

      Delete
  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  10. It’s important to know what to watch out for with heart disease in animals - you’ve written a great piece. Great interview and will share!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for your kind words and for sharing this article! I really enjoyed interviewing Dr. Walther and sharing this important information with other pet parents about how they can keep their pets' hearts healthy.

      Delete
  11. I'm surprised and saddened that there has been such a big increase in reported heartworm cases. Although we normally don't give our dogs heartworm medication in the winter, with global warming, I think it is time to give them the medication year round.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me too! It should be going very much the other way, but as Dr. Walther stated more mosquitos and a wider variety of them plus increases in pet travel are contributing to the uptick. I agree, the weather is getting so unpredictable. I have never felt comfortable not protecting them all year round. Better safe than sorry!

      Delete
  12. Such important information! The more educated we all are, the earlier we can catch health issues like heart disease. Thanks for raising awareness!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You said it! Education & awareness are what will help us keep the pets we love safe from heart disease and other nasty conditions.

      Delete
  13. Great post! I didn’t realize cats could get heart worms until Truffle’s breeder told me. They’ve been on a monthly preventative since then because we live in the south where mosquitoes are terrible

    ReplyDelete