The heart is the center of your pet's cardiovascular system and a critical organ responsible for pumping oxygen-rich blood through their bodies. Unfortunately, sometimes they may experience issues with this vital organ. Our internal medicine vets in Thornton discuss five of the most common heart diseases in pets and how they affect them.
Just like a human heart, your pet's heart has two chambers with valves on either side that pump blood to and from the heart. As your pet ages, these heart valves will begin to deteriorate and may get to the point where they no longer close completely. When this happens their blood will fail to flow in the direction that it is meant to.
Degenerative mitral valve disease (DMVD) is the type of valvular degeneration that is most commonly known to affect dogs. When a dog suffers from DMVD it is more likely that they are an older dog. With DMVD the mitral valve that separates the left atria from the left ventricle will become thick and weak, allowing some blood to flow backward through the valve with each heartbeat. The name for this backward flow of blood is called mitral valve regurgitation. As your dog ages, this condition will progress and valve regurgitation will increase. One of the unfortunate outcomes of this increased valve regurgitation is that progressive heart enlargement can occur, at this point your dog may be at increased risk of developing congestive heart failure (CHF). DMVD is not only more common in older dogs but also in smaller breeds of dogs. While this is a condition that will affect most dogs, there is a small percentage of the dog population that will be affected more severely and require long-term management. Your internal medicine vets in Thornton may diagnose this disease if they detect any left-side heart murmurs during a routine check-up.
Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)
DCM is a group of diseases that dogs can experience that result in the weakening of the heart muscle. These diseases cause less blood to be pumped out of the heart with each heartbeat, over time this can cause the walls of the heart to stretch which in turn causes the chambers of the heart to dilate, or become larger when this happens then your dog will be at risk of developing CHF. While DCM can affect all breeds of dogs it most commonly affects dogs that are a higher breed. Some of the breeds of dogs that are at a higher risk include:
- Doberman Pinschers
- Great Danes
DMC is a naturally occurring group of diseases and is progressive once it occurs. Our internal medicine vets in Thornton are able to provide comprehensive diagnostics and are able to provide a symptom-free life, to manage and improve your beloved pup's life.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or HCM is one of the most common heart diseases that affect cats. HCM is caused by the abnormal thickening of the left ventricular muscle. The thickening of this muscle then decreases the ventricle’s ability to accept blood. This will cause an increase in the pressure within the heart causing dilation of the heart, and increasing the risk of congenital heart failure developing. When this happens the blood flow slows down and increases the risk of blood clots forming especially in the back legs.
Between cats being defensive and HCM commonly occurring without symptoms it can be difficult to diagnose. Typically our veterinary internists in Thornton don't see the pets suffering from HCM until blood clots have already formed making treatment more difficult. It is incredibly important to have routine veterinary visits in order to diagnose and treat possible heart conditions as early as possible. While HCM is not curable, it is possible for cats to live their entire lives managing the disease without developing blood clots.
Electrical impulses are responsible for each and every one of your heartbeats. These impulses begin at the top of the heart and work their down the heart in a coordinated way creating the heartbeat as we know it. Occasionally these impulses do not function the way they should and in these cases, an abnormal heart rhythm or arrhythmia may develop. Common arrhythmias in pets include:
- Tachycardia, or an increased heart rate
- Bradycardia, or a decreased heart rate
- Premature ventricular contractions
- Heart block
- Atrial fibrillation
Your internal medicine vet can detect any possible arrhythmia during your pet's routine exam. Some of the common symptoms you may notice with an arrhythmia include weakness, lethargy, exercise intolerance, or collapse.
Congenital Heart Disease
Congenital heart diseases occur due to abnormal heart development. Your vet may discover a heart murmur during your pet's routine exam which could then result in the diagnosis of congenital heart disease. Common congenital heart diseases include:
- Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA)
- Pulmonic stenosis
- Subaortic stenosis
- Ventricular septal defect (VSD)
If your pet has been diagnosed with congenital heart disease your internal medicine vet may recommend a minimally invasive surgery depending on the type of congenital heart disease your pet is experiencing.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.