A heart problem can affect your pet at any age, although these problems are more often found in older pets. Heart failure occurs when the heart no longer has the ability to pump blood through the body effectively. Heart failure can lead to congestive heart failure which is an accumulation of fluid in the lungs or possibly in the abdomen as well. Animals suffering from congestive heart failure often experience difficulty breathing and frequent coughing. Some causes of heart failure include congenital heart disease (animals born with a heart problem), valvular heart disease (abnormalities of the valves of the heart), cardiomyopathy (changes to the heart muscle), heartworm disease (caused by the heartworm parasite), and arrythmias (rhythm disturbances).
Many heart problems can be identified on physical examination. Additional tests are usually required to accurately identify the cause of the heart disease. Additional tests include ECGs (electrocardiograms), radiographs (X-rays), and ultrasounds.
Heart disease is a serious, life threatening condition but early diagnosis and appropriate therapy can extend your pet’s life.