Happy Lives and Healthy Hearts – How to Look After Your Pet’s Heart

We all know that the heart is one of the most vital organs in the body, and it’s essential that our pets’ hearts stay strong for a healthy, happy life. Unfortunately, heart problems can be quite common in our faithful friends, with many different symptoms and causes.

PDSA Vet Nurse, Nina Downing, said: “Heart problems are usually caused by changes to the heart’s shape, size or beating rhythm.  Pets often develop symptoms later in life, but they do sometimes occur from birth. Luckily, there are ways you can reduce the strain on your pet’s body, so if they’re at risk of developing a heart problem, you can support in delaying  the onset of symptoms and, likewise, help to manage symptoms if there’s an existing issue.

Spotting symptoms 

“Heart problems cause lots of different symptoms in pets which can get worse over time. That’s why it’s important that you’re able to recognise the early signs and seek help from your vet as soon as possible.

“Changes to breathing patterns can be a tell-tale sign of a heart problem. If your pet seems to be breathing faster than normal, or panting with an open mouth when at rest, or is having difficulty catching their breath, contact your vet. Continuous coughing, a bloated stomach and lethargy are other symptoms to look out for.

Breed awareness  

“Owners should bear in mind that some breeds are more susceptible to heart problems than others, often due to inherited issues that are passed down through generations. For this reason, it’s vital that you do thorough research before taking on a new pet, so you can find out if they could be prone to heart problems.

“Fortunately, health screening is available for commonly affected breeds, which may include scanning of both parents’ hearts to check they are not affected prior to mating, in the hope of reducing the risk of passing problems onto their offspring. This does not 100% guarantee that your new pet won’t inherit a heart condition, but it can give you some idea what the risk of this happening is.

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Diet and exercise  

“A healthy weight is essential for maintaining good health and reducing the strain on the body’s joints and organs, including the heart. If your pet is overweight, their heart will have to work extra hard to keep the body functioning properly. This additional strain can lead to an increased risk of any underlying heart issues developing.

“To keep your pet at the correct weight, always weigh out their food to ensure you’re not giving them too much to eat. Try to cut back on unhealthy treats.

“Exercise is key to maintaining a healthy heart. Not only will it help to keep your pet’s weight in check, it also keeps the heart muscle fit. Most furry family members will enjoy a few sessions spread throughout the day to keep them active.”

PDSA is the UK’s largest vet charity. We’re on a mission to improve pet wellbeing through prevention, education and treatment. Support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery helps us reach even more pet owners with vital advice and information. www.pdsa.org.uk

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