Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.
Heart disease in various forms is quite common in dogs and cats. In fact, veterinarians frequently diagnose patients with heart murmurs, arrhythmias, congestive heart failure and enlarged hearts, just to name a few.
Heart disease in pets can be due to congenital defects (such as a hole in the heart), age-related change (a thickened valve that becomes leaky), problems with the heart muscle itself, heart-worms living in the vessels around the heart or the heart itself, or even be secondary to an unrelated problem that causes changes in hormone levels or electrolytes.
It is interesting to note that, unlike people, cats and dogs rarely have high cholesterol or triglycerides as the underlying cause of their heart disease, and rarely have true “heart attacks.”
The first step in diagnosing heart disease is obtaining a full history, as often there are clinical signs that may be noted at home even before the pet comes in for a full exam. These include:
- Elevated resting respiratory rate
- Persistent coughing and/or difficulty breathing
- Decreased exercise tolerance or energy in general
- Collapsing or fainting episodes
- Decreased appetite
- Distended abdomen
Other symptoms that may not be apparent at home, but can be picked up by your pet’s veterinarian, include:
- Irregular heartbeat / arrhythmia
- Heart murmur (the sound of turbulent blood flow through the heart)
- Lung sounds that may indicate fluid build-up in or around the lungs
- Signs of poor oxygenation such as discolored gums
- Fluid build-up in the abdomen
- Abnormal blood pressure
Because pets are very good at “hiding” their heart disease, it is not unusual that they can be seemingly asymptomatic for a long period of time and then quite quickly develop severe symptoms of heart disease such as coughing, respiratory distress, or collapsing episodes. This is especially true in cats, as they are well-known for showing very few symptoms of heart disease until their disease is quite advanced.
If your pet is diagnosed with a heart murmur or arrhythmia on routine physical exam additional testing may be recommended. This may include bloodwork to look for underlying metabolic or electrolyte abnormalities, chest x-rays to evaluate the shape and size of the heart and to further evaluate the lungs for evidence of fluid build-up, and/or an EKG to diagnose an abnormal rhythm.
In some cases, referral to a veterinary cardiologist may be indicated. Veterinary cardiologists have special training in diagnosing and treating heart-related conditions.
One of the most important tests they perform is an echocardiogram, or ultrasound of the heart. This allows visualization of the structure of the heart muscle and valves, as well as flow of blood through the heart. This is a specialized test not routinely performed by most family veterinarians, but provides very valuable information about the underlying cause of the symptoms and can help us more effectively manage the heart disease.
Studies have shown that pets in congestive heart failure may live up to 75 percent longer when co-managed by a veterinary cardiologist and their primary veterinarian.
We are fortunate in the Northern Virginia/D.C. metropolitan area to have one of the country’s premier veterinary cardiology groups nearby – Chesapeake Veterinary Cardiology Associates. Their website is a wealth of information for any pet parent whose furry friend has been diagnosed with heart disease.
When caught early, most heart disease conditions in our pets can be managed,and some for quite a long time. If your pet is experiencing any of the symptoms above please consult with your family veterinarian for further evaluation. If your pet has been diagnosed with a heart condition, additional resources and educational material can be found with the links below.
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Have you noticed a striking sculpture at Monroe Street and Wilson Boulevard? It’s the Museum of Contemporary Art Arlington’s newest installation, _Make Your Mark_ , by Arlington artist, Adam Henry. This sculpture celebrates MoCA Arlington’s rebranding and brings the museum’s energy outdoors.
On February 11, come inside when the museum’s galleries reopen with two new exhibitions: Rebecca Rivas Rogers: Grey View and Crisis of Image.
Grey View, in the Wyatt Resident Artist Gallery, is an homage to “gray” and a snapshot of the artist’s process. Consisting of photographs, collage, and a site-specific installation, this show is an outgrowth of Rivas-Rogers’ visual investigations into places you see on your way to somewhere else.
On the main level, Crisis of Image features artists who seek equity in today’s saturated visual world by developing new methods related to the production of images.
Its February and you said you would start your journey to a healthier you, last month! If you are struggling and do not know how or what to do to get started, we are here to keep you accountable. At Aspire Higher Training, we offer 1-1 Personal Training for ALL fitness levels, Semi-Private Group Training, Sport Specific Training and Injury Prevention/Post-Physical Therapy Training. Monica and her team of trainers are available across Arlington, Va.
If you don’t have access to a gym, no problem, we are located in South Arlington, but if you want to workout from your home gym, we also offer that flexibility. We make it as convenient as possible to ensure your success. Before getting started, we offer a free 15-30 minute consultation call to see how we can best help you towards your health and fitness goals. Let’s get started on your health and fitness goals today by setting up a call at your earliest convenience:
Valentine gifts for someone special or for yourself are here at George Mason University from noon -4pm on February 14, 2023. Satisfy your sweet tooth with Kingsbury Chocolates, find a handmade bag from Karina Gaull, pick up treats from Village