Leading a heart healthy lifestyle, including exercise and a healthy diet, is important for both people and pets. Since February is Heart Health Month, now is a great time to get educated about preventing heart disease in dogs and cats.
Here are some heart healthy tips:
- Keep your pet active. For a dog, daily walks are excellent exercise. In good weather, a hike or a swim are also good ways to get some activity. For cats, commit to daily play sessions.
- Look at your pet’s diet. Make sure it is a complete and balanced diet. Watch for any indications of extra (and unnecessary) sodium.
- Keep an eye on your pet’s waistline. A fit and trim pet has a lower risk of developing heart disease with age.
- Be aware of potential heart disease risks in your pet’s breed. Some dog and cat breeds are at higher risk of diseases like cardiomyopathy (a disease of heart muscle). Look for cardiac clearance on an animal’s parents if you are purchasing a breed that is prone to heart conditions.
- Make sure your pet gets an annual physical exam. Your veterinarian will listen to your pet’s heart with a stethoscope. If any irregularities are evident, an EKG (electrocardiograph) or an ultrasound may be recommended to completely evaluate the heart. Senior pets benefit from twice-yearly exams.
- Watch for any signs of a heart problem developing. Pets rarely get acute cardiac problems. They are more likely to show signs of chronic damage. Symptoms may include labored breathing, discolored gums and a drop in activity level. Appetite may also decrease in pets with a heart problem along with desire to exercise and play. Don’t assume it is simply “old age” catching up with your pet.
- If your pet shows signs of a heart problem, make an appointment with a vet. Cardiac specific medications may be recommended, along with diet changes and heart health supplements.