As February features its heart-focussed Valentine’s Day, we thought that this month would be the perfect time to talk about the heart that matters most: your pet’s.
When it comes to diseases of the heart, knowing what to watch out for really makes a difference. Early detection of heart disease means that medical treatment is able to get underway sooner, which can help your pet to live a longer and healthier life.
Most signs of heart disease are related to a decrease in the function of the heart. The signs, however, can be very subtle and often difficult to detect.
What to look out for:
+ Reluctance to exercise or tiring easily on walks
+ Laboured or fast breathing
+ Weakness or fainting from exercise
+ An enlarged abdomen
+ Weight loss or poor appetite
What can WE do?
We always listen to your pet’s heart. This physical examination allows us to detect any changes to the heart, as early as possible. Sometimes we might hear a murmur (abnormal blood flow) or an arrhythmia (irregular rhythm). If we do detect a murmur or arrhythmia, we may perform further tests such as an ultrasound, an ECG or X-rays.
Thankfully, we have a number of medications at the ready to improve your pet’s heart function, if needed.
What can YOU do?
If we diagnose your pet with heart disease, you may be asked to keep a record of their SRR. The SRR is an acronym for your pet’s sleeping respiratory rate. Taking record of the SRR is a powerful tool and can be implemented in your own home. The records can help to detect, or improve the monitoring of, left-sided congestive heart failure (CHF) in dogs and cats.
Many of the common heart diseases lead to CHF. When the pressure in the top left heart chamber increases, and blood backs up into vessels within the lung, it results in the blood accumulating in the lungs. This fluid is the cause of the increase in your pet’s respiratory rate.
How to monitor the sleeping respiratory rate
The SRR should be measured when your pet is asleep in their usual environment.
Repeat the measuring over 2-3 days, then ongoing once or twice a week.
The normal SRR in cats and dogs is often in the high teens or low 20s, at around less than 30 breaths per minute.
When to seek veterinary advice?
If your pet’s SRR is consistently greater than 30 breaths per minute, they could be at high risk of developing congestive heart failure. This means that veterinary advice needs to be sought as soon as possible.
It’s important to note that an elevated SRR can at times be caused by high blood pressure, pain, anaemia, pneumonia, heat stress or even a fever – so a veterinary check-up is always urged.
If you are at all concerned about your pet’s heart health, call us today for advice.