Love Dogs... Love Nature

Heart Disease

May 2012

Love your pet… love your vet

Fact file: Heart Disease

Did you know that the heart, the most vital muscle in the body, is a muscular pump responsible for supplying the tissues of your pet’s body with oxygen and nutrients?

The key function of the heart is to pump deoxygenated blood to the lungs where it is reoxygenated and pump reoxygenated blood back round to the tissues of the body ­ allowing pets to lead a normal active life.  Whilst most of our pets thankfully take all this for granted, heart disease is nevertheless surprisingly common.

In dogs it is generally more common in older pets, but in certain breeds it is more prevalent at an early age.  In cats, heart disease is quite commonly associated with thyroid gland disease.

Any loss of normal heart function is called heart disease and this can be gradual or sudden in onset.  There are many possible causes of heart disease; however the two most common causes are due to either heart valve problems or a problem with the heart muscle itself.

Heart disease is commonly associated with a range of symptoms including: reluctance to exercise, tiring more easily, coughing, laboured breathing, pale or blueish gums, fainting or collapse.

If you are concerned that your pet is showing any of these signs, you should see your vet for a full clinical examination.  As with many illnesses, early detection is the golden rule!  The good news is that with new methods of diagnosis and novel forms of treatment they are greatly improving and extending the lives of pets with heart problems.

How the heart pumps... in a healthy heart the right side of the heart receives deoxygenated blood from the tissues of the body.  As the chambers of the right side contract, they pump the blood to the lungs where the blood is reoxygenated.  The oxygen rich blood then flows back into the left side of the heart.  As the chambers of the left side contract, the blood is then pumped to the tissues of the body. 

As the heart muscle squeezes and pumps, valves within the heart prevent back flow of blood.

Chris Devlin BVSc MRCVS is a Vet and Partner at Hillside Veterinary Centre in Corfe Mullen.  w: Follow us on facebook