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Heart Attacks: do cats and dogs have them?

Cats and dogs experience heart problems like humans do with one main difference. Do you know what it is? The difference is they do not suffer from heart attacks. The reason for this is because they do not develop plaques in blood vessels or blockages like humans.

Cats can suffer from an enlarged heart, also called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). The disease is best described as enlarged heart chambers that do not allow the ventricular muscle to contract properly.

Some dangers if your cat suffers from enlarged heart (DCM):

  • Congestive heart failure: may happen if the heart is unable to sufficiently distribute blood through the body.
  • Thromboembolic disease: If your pet has an enlarged hear, he/she is more risk of increasing blood clots or thrombus within the heart.
  • Hypertension: Pets who have DCM are prone to developing high blood pressure.

According to WebMD,  pets that are affected by this disease may show the following symptoms: “decreased appetite, weight loss, and an increase in respiratory rate”. You may also notice more serious signs, such as pain and limited paralysis.

An enlarged heart can also affect dogs which develops when the heart muscles are weak and lead to pressure in the hearts blood vessels, stretching the muscles.

Some dangers if your dog suffers from enlarged heart (DCM):

  • Heart murmur/Arrhythmias: when a dog’s heart is enlarged, the valves are not able to close completely; blood begins to flow backwards, forming a murmur. Arrhythmias are irregular heartbeats and are caused when the electrical impulses of the heart don’t function correctly.
  • Distended abdomen: muscles on the right side of the heart enlarge so much they shut down and fluid builds up in the abdomen. Your pet may have trouble breathing because of the pressure from the fluid.
  • Fluid in the lungs: If the fluid builds up enough it can flow into the lungs. The fluid will cause coughing, heavy breathing, fatigue, fainting, discoloration of lips and tongue and even death.
  • Heart failure: the muscles that flow from the heart can no longer keep up with the circulatory needs of the body. At this point, life expectancy is very short.

Dogs with DCM may show some of these signs: labored breathing, cough, nasal discharge, weakness, lethargy, depression, lack of appetite, etc.

The cause of DCM is pretty much a mystery. Deficiencies in taurine were a major factor, but most pet food companies have increased taurine levels in most products. Sometimes it is the genetics of the dog or cat. Unfortunately, there are no known preventative measures for this disease either.

If you suspect your furry friend is suffering from DCM, a licensed veterinarian should diagnose her. Your pet will get a complete exam of the heart, medical tests, an EKG and any other tests your vet deems necessary to give you an exact diagnosis.

Your pet will need to be hospitalized if her symptoms are severe enough. Treatment for DCM may include drugs and will depend on your pet’s situation. You will be required to do follow up treatments so your dog or cat can be reevaluated and monitored. It’s best to work closely with your vet to make sure your pet is comfortable and well cared for.

If you don’t have regular veterinarian, TAILored Pet Services recommends Bothell Pet Hospital because our staff members have personally worked with these companies for many years.