The heart is one of the most important organs in the body, not only for humans, but for our furry family members too. It’s therefore crucial to keep it strong and healthy – anything that stops the heart from functioning as normal, such as changes in size, shape or rhythm, can cause problems.
PDSA Vet Nurse, Nina Downing, said “Heart problems can be fairly common and cause a wide range of symptoms – some animals can live with a heart condition for years with minimal impact on their life, while others may have severe, life-threatening symptoms. There are several things you can do to support the heart health of your four-legged friend.
Watching out for symptoms
“There are important signs of heart disease to look out for in pets which, sadly, may worsen over time. While heart disease can’t be cured, there are treatments which can help to manage your furry family member’s symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. Things to look out for include your pet stopping or slowing down while exercising, breathing faster than normal when they are sleeping, taking a while to catch their breath after exercise, low energy, panting for longer or more often, coughing or, for cats in particular, breathing with an open mouth. Pets struggling with a heart condition may also collapse.
Maintaining a healthy weight
“If your furry family member is carrying extra weight, their heart has to work harder, which adds a lot of strain. Making small changes, such as weighing out their food, cutting back on unhealthy treats, and not giving in to puppy dog eyes at the table, are small changes you can make to help them maintain a healthy weight. Talk through any concerns about your pet’s weight with your vet – they may suggest a weight clinic to help support you.
Getting enough exercise
“Exercise is a key part in keeping your pet’s heart healthy. Making sure your pooch is going for daily walks, suitable for their size, weight, and fitness ability, is really important. In between walks, have fun and play games together to help keep dogs moving.
“Cats enjoy playtime too – even if your cat is active and enjoys roaming outdoors, they will still enjoy special time with you, which will motivate them to exercise, and it’s great for bonding. If they are slightly overweight or more reluctant to move around, short play sessions are a great way to introduce a new exercise regime. You can increase the length of activities, as your cat gets fitter and more enthusiastic.
“Engaging your cat with toys, such as balls, teaser toys, wind-up chase toys, will also encourage their natural hunting instincts.
“Catching heart problems early can make a big difference to your furry family member’s long-term health. Regular check-ups with the vet, where they can listen to your pet’s heart, can help pick up a problem before it develops.
“If you are concerned about your pet’s health, or they display any worrying symptoms between check-ups, always book an appointment so your vet can offer advice and treatment to keep your pet happy and healthy.”
PDSA is the UK’s largest vet charity providing a vital service for pets across the UK whose owners struggle to afford treatment costs for their sick and injured pets. For many vulnerable pets, PDSA is there to help when there is nowhere else for their owners to turn. 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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