About RTÉ Television
The Afternoon Show
The Afternoon ShowRTÉ One, Weekdays, 4.00pm

Vet's Clinic with Liam Moriarty - Healthy hearts in your dog

Thursday, 11 February 2010

How to keep your pet dog or cat's heart healthy

Surveys have shown that pets are good keeping our hearts healthy - dog owners get more exercise, pet owners suffer from stress less than non pet owners. Also stroking your pet can reduce your blood pressure.

So pets help keep our hearts healthy, what do we need to know about keeping their hearts healthy.

Is heart disease common in pets?
Yes it is very common now more so in dogs than cats and certain breeds are worse than others.

Which breeds have the worst hearts?
Cavalier King Charles in dogs, Maine Coon cats.

What problems do pets get with their hearts?

Small dogs more commonly get mitral valve disease - which is a leaky valve in the heart. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is probably one of the worst breeds for mitral valve disease, but any dog can have it including some larger breeds and crossbreeds.

Large dogs get dilated cardiomyopathy - which is weak heart muscle, this is common in the Doberman in particular but other large breeds as well. -

Cats most commonly get hypertrophic cardiomyopathy which is thickening of the heart muscle.

Do they get heart attacks like people?
Not really - heart attacks are rare in dogs, they can happen but they are uncommon. Most often dogs get chronic heart failure, this is where the heart fails slowly - there are many signs which owners may pick up at home.

Heart disease in dogs - top things to watch out for:
. Exercise intolerance - is your dog dragging behind you on a walk when he used to drag you? Sleeping more? Could be heart disease
. Obesity - overweight dogs are more likely to have heart disease
. Breed, certain breeds have higher proportion of heart disease
. Coughing, - chronic (long term cough) can be a sign of heart disease. Also watch out for excessive panting or breathing difficulties
. Distension of the abdomen - if your pet has a pot belly this can be sign of fluid build up caused by heart disease
. Collapsing - if your dog has been collapsing it could be his heart.
. Your vet mentioned that he had a murmur
. Bad teeth - dogs with dental disease have higher rates of heart disease because of bacterial infections spreading from gums to heart valves
. Your vet found a heart murmur on a routine check - is this serious? Don't worry too much, it can be serious but some murmurs are innocent, often times it is something that requires monitoring.

Signs heart disease in cats:

. Weight loss
. Reduced activity levels
. Drinking a urinating excessively - can indicate overactive thyroid which causes heart disease or kidney problems which causes high blood pressure.
. Diet - taurine (an amino acid) deficiency in cats can result in heart failure. All commercial cat foods are supplemented with Taurine and it is plentiful in meat and fish.
. Paralysed on back legs

Things you should do at home:

. Make sure your pet is at its ideal weight
. Watch out for signs mentioned especially if your pet is known to have a murmur.
. Feed the right food - cats require meat, commercial cat foods are best,
. Get your vet to check your pets heart at every check up
. Make sure your pet has plenty of exercise but don't over do it!
. What your vet might do...

If your dog or cat has suspected heart disease there are many things your vet can do to help:

. Listen to heart and lungs to check for murmurs or unusual rhythms
. General health check to rule out other types of disease
. take x-rays of the chest - (show normal then enlarged heart x rays pics )
. In the case of the cat blood test to check for thyroid and kidney disease
. trial therapy

If you can't afford to have tests done or you are concerned about costs we can always do some trial therapy. So if we suspect heart disease we start on some therapy and see does it get any better! Also if you have a pet consider getting pet insurance to avoid having to pay big vet bills. If you are worried about the cost of veterinary fees phone ahead and ask for an estimate of the costs involved and whether there are any alternatives - we want to help your pet with the best treatment you can afford.

For more information:

Kennel is courtesy of Baumann's, Stillorgan. Tel: 01 288 4021