How to protect your pet

This February, Catoctin Veterinary Clinic and its staff felt it was important to highlight the heart. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, what better way to show your pet you love them than protecting their heart?

The heart is the most important organ in your dog’s body. It pumps blood containing oxygen and nutrients through the blood vessels to the cells of the body. Most heart conditions involve a decrease in the effective pumping of blood. This can lead to a buildup of fluid in the chest and abdomen. There are two main types of heart conditions: one affecting the heart valve and the other the heart muscle.

The following symptoms may indicate a heart problem in your dog:

1. Frequent coughing. In some cases, a low-pitched cough that sometimes leads to gagging;

2. Tired, lack of energy;

3. Fainting or collapsing;

4. Breathing difficulties that include shortness of breath;

5. Reduced ability to exercise;

6. Reduced appetite and/or noticeable weight gain or loss;

7. Swelling in the abdomen.

If your pet is displaying any of the above symptoms it is best to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible. Your veterinarian may check for heart disease using some of the following methods:

1. A stethoscope exam can reveal murmurs and fluid in the lungs;

2. Palpation can reveal unusual pulses;

3. X-rays reveal heart enlargement;

4. An EKG can identify heart enlargement and irregular rhythms;

5. Blood and urine tests can reveal heartworms and the condition of other internal organs that may be causing stress on the heart.

Remember a heart condition may not be obvious in the early stages. If you are in any doubt about your dog’s health, consult with your veterinarian. He or she may refer you to the cardiologist for further testing if your animal does prove to have a heart condition.