Cardiac disease


What signs could indicate my pet has a heart condition?

Generally, the signs of heart disease result from the heart being unable to pump blood forward efficiently. This means that fluid starts to pool in the lungs. You may notice:

  • Coughing, especially at night and when lying down
  • Shortness of breath or increased effort to breathe, especially when exercising
  • Exercise intolerance, weakness or lethargy
  • Collapse

What will the vet look for to decide if there is a problem with the heart?

We will look for a change in rhythm ('arrhythmia') or a heart murmur. A murmur is the sound we hear when blood flow in the heart is turbulent as a result of a problem with the heart valves. We will also examine the rest of the body for signs that blood is not being pumped normally.

How can we determine what the problem is?

The most common cause of heart disease is a condition called endocardiosis, where the valves of the heart become thickened and don't work as well as they should. There are a variety of other conditions of the heart, however, and all can present in a similar way. Sometimes we may do tests to determine exactly what the problem is, including x-rays, ultrasound, electrocardiogram (ECG) and blood tests. In some cases, the exact cause of heart disease may be difficult to diagnose and you may need to be referred to a cardiac specialist.

What treatment is available?

Whilst we usually cannot cure heart disease, treatment is aimed at minimising the symptoms and giving your pet optimal quality of life. This usually involves use of a combination of medications, including diuretics to help flush excess fluid out of the body, drugs to reduce the workload on the heart, and drugs to improve the function of the heart. Modifying the diet can also help.