If Our Pets Could Talk – February 2024


Sadly, we only have our pets for a short time. Many times, it is because of an unexpected medical situation that suddenly appears, like a heart or renal condition. Sometimes there are “warning” signs, and many are very subtle that might alert us of a possible bad situation in the future. That it is why it is important to have a yearly check-up at least for our pets-the goal is early diagnosis and treatment as quality of life and life expectancy can be improved. 

Many times, when our pets are becoming sick, because of their stoic behavior they may ‘hide’ from us [a deep ingrained instinct] which is not always helping us to be alert to a problem. The object of this article to help us be aware of some early signs to observe in our pets. Because there is so much information, this article will focus on cardiac conditions, and the previous Ojo Pet December 2023 article was  about renal disease.

Heart disease affects 1 out of every 10 cats, with most feline heart disorders acquired during their lifetime. The older your dog  the risks get higher-up to 75% of senior dogs have some type of heart condition the most common form of canine heart disease involves the valves making  up 70-75% of heart conditions.  In some cases, the “warning” signs are obvious, in others; a serious heart disorder can remain hidden for years and may present itself in a sudden, medical crisis situation.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (AKA-HCM): “Cardiomyopathy”: is the most commonly diagnosed cardiac disease in cats causing the heart muscular walls to thicken, decreasing the heart’s efficiency and sometimes creating symptoms in other parts of the body. This condition also occurs in dogs. Disease of the heart can be caused by birth defects, genetics, infections, other major organ problems, and heart structure changes that sometimes come with aging. Certain cat breeds are predisposed to the condition including Maine Coons, Persians, Ragdolls, and in dog-some American Shorthairs, and it occurs mostly in large- giant breeds.             

HCM generally affects middle-aged and senior pets, BUT any time you observe symptoms in your pet regardless of age, seek veterinary care immediately.

Early signs of heart disease are similar in cats and dogs, with a few exceptions. These signs can include: (a) lack of energy-less playful, more napping,  more tired, more “winded” than usual with a walk /exercise, (b) breathing difficulties-frequent coughing-FYI: cats aren’t able to cough the way dogs can, so their respiratory distress may come out instead through vomiting, (c) rapid,  labored or open mouth breathing-dogs with severe heart disease have more trouble breathing when lying down, and will often sit or stand for long periods of time (d) they may sleep or rest more than usual-the respiratory distress is due to fluid buildup, (e) unexplained/changed reduced appetite, and (f) poor circulation-a significant sign of a heart issue that can often go undetected-cold extremities, bluish footpads or nail beds, and grayish gums or tongue. 

During a physical exam, your Veterinarian may also determine if your pet’s heart is beating too fast, too slowly, or with an irregular rhythm. To diagnose a problem with the heart, your Vet. may want to do tests including bloodwork, an  X-Ray, check blood pressure and do a heart Ultrasound. Once the condition has been diagnosed, medications may be used to help the heart function better, normalize the rhythm, or reduce blood pressure. If the heart disease is diagnosed early enough, and has not progressed rapidly and properly treated, it can delay the onset and possibly prevent progression to heart failure and may increase quantity of life. Once the heart failure is under control, your pet will likely need medications for the rest of their life, with annual monitoring. If your pet has other medical conditions such as kidney disease, hypertension or pulmonary disease, it can make treating the heart condition more complicated. Have your pet seen regularly by your Vet. as an early detection for any potential chronic or acute medical condition(s).

For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com

Jackie Kellum

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *