The heart is one of the most marvelous organs that keeps the bodies of cats, dogs, and people alike alive and thriving. Just like any well designed machine however, the heart can fall to wear and tear or other defects. Today our Tumwater veterinary team will be exploring the 5 most common heart problems cats and dogs experience, to help pet owners understand the cardiac challenges their aging pets might experience.
Your cat's oral health is incredibly important to their general health and happiness. Obviously, our feline companions use their mouths, teeth and gums to eat and vocalize and when their oral structures stop functioning properly or are causing them pain, not only will they be able to do those as effectively, they will be uncomfortable and in pain.
Plus, the bacteria and infection that causes many oral health issues won't just remain in your cat's mouth if it isn't promptly treated. Infection and bacteria may begin to circulate throughout your pet's body, damaging organs like their kidneys, liver, and heart and leading to more serious impacts on their overall health.
#1: Valvular Degeneration
The hearts of cats and dogs are not so different from human hearts - both are split between 4 chambers, 2 to a side, which circulate blood through our bodies. Each chamber has valves that have to open and close to control the flow of blood through them, and as our pets age, these valves can deteriorate and cause problems. This can result in blood flowing in the wrong direction and have serious consequences. The most common form of valvular degeneration is Degenerative mitral valve disease (DMVD). The mitral valve separates the left atria from the left ventricle and grows weak and thick with age often allowing the blood to flow backward back into the atria. DMVD typically affects older, small-breed dogs. The majority of dogs will eventually develop mild, possibly undetectable cases of the disease but some 30% of dogs diagnosed with the disease will require life management treatment to survive. Our Tumwater vets will work with you to formulate a treatment plan if your dog or cat shows signs of Valvular Degeneration
#2: Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)
A whole family of diseases fall under the classification of being DCM which all share in the weakening of dog's and cat's heart muscles. Large and giant breed dogs are most susceptible to this disease, which leads to less blood being pumped through the heart and risks dilating the chambers of the heart. DCM is irreversible and will continue to get worse over time once it has occurred. Early diagnosis is key as it will allow your Tumwater vet the opportunity to formulate a plan that will extend and enhance the quality of your pet's life.
#3: Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)
HCM is the heart condition with which cats are most frequently diagnosed. HCM is the abnormal thickening of the left ventricular muscle, which results in the ventricle’s ability to relax and accept blood failing. Over time this builds pressure on the heart, affecting blood flow and dilating the ventricle. In all this greatly increases the odds of developing blood clots in cats affected with HCM.
Cats are famous for their ability to hide signs of illness which can make diagnosing the disease challenging without regular full physical examinations. This is one of the biggest reasons why its important to maintain regular wellness exams for your cat.
#4: Heart arrhythmias
Your pet's heartbeats are determined by electrical pulses. Each pulse starts its journey thorough the heart and works its way down conduits that trigger the full heart contraction. If there is an issue with this pulse starting or traveling correctly it can lead to an arythmic heartbeat. Our Tumwater veterinarians can detect arrhythmias during routine physical exams. Treatments for arrhythmias vary greatly depending on the exact nature of the diagnosis and the severity of the issue. Treatment may include oral antiarrhythmic drugs or even surgery to insert a pacemaker.
#5: Congenital Heart Diseases
Congenital heart diseases are present in 3-5% of dogs and cats that need treatment for heart issues and will have been present since their birth. Durng a routine exam your vet may encounter a heart murmer which would lead to referral to a cardiac specialist. This is typically how congenital heart diseases are diagnosed. Congenital heart diseases are caused by atypical development of the heart, and thus can only be corrected by altering the anatomy. In mild cases a minimally invasive surgery can improve a dog or cat's anatomy enough to solve any issues they are experiencing. If the problem is much more severe, than more intensive surgery will be required.