How to Keep Your Pet’s Heart Healthy

As your cat or dog ages, heart health can have a direct impact on their quality of life. Luckily, the same rules apply to pets that apply to humans: regular exercise, a healthy diet, and annual checkups all help to prevent heart disease.

Even if heart disease develops, treatment options are available. This handy guide answers basic questions and offers simple steps that you can take to ensure your pet has a long and heart-healthy life.

What can I do to prevent heart disease in my dog or cat?

Bring your dog or cat in for their regular annual checkup, especially if you have a breed at a higher risk for heart disease. Often, your vet will hear problems with the animal’s heart before they show symptoms. Also, the same rules that apply to humans apply here as well: a healthy diet and adequate exercise go a long way.

What are the signs of heart disease in dogs and cats?

For dogs, the two things to look out for are exercise intolerance and coughing. Sometimes there might be noticeable breathing issues. If your dog has been resting, but you notice faster than usual breathing or even breathing difficulties, it might be time to call your vet.

Heart problems in cats generally don’t cause coughing, but the same breathing issues that dogs experience may also occur for cats. There will also be a noticeable change in behavior if your cat is experiencing heart disease.

Can heart disease in dogs and cats be treated?

Yes! For dogs, there are several treatments available to slow the progression of the disease before it gets to the point of heart failure. That’s why it’s crucial to make annual appointments with your vet. They can detect something like a heart murmur and slow the disease with treatment. Even if the disease is in its late stages, there are still treatment options available to improve your pet’s quality of life.

Cats can be a little tougher to diagnose and treat before the disease progresses to congestive heart failure. However, there are treatment options available that can improve the animal’s quality of life.

Can pet food cause heart disease in dogs or cats?

The FDA has recently taken an interest in whether or not grain-free diets cause heart disease in dogs, but the data is inconclusive. Anecdotally, dogs on a grain-free diet have been observed to experience heart failures only to recover when grain is added back into their diet. These observations are isolated, however, and are far from conclusive.

With cats, the science is a little clearer. Cats can develop heart disease if there’s not enough taurine in their diet. Taurine is an amino acid found in most reputable pet foods, so check the label and be sure your cat is eating regularly.

Are there specific types of food that are better for the heart health of dogs and cats?

The number one thing you can do to keep your pet’s heart healthy is buy pet food from a well-known and reputable company. We always recommend established pet food companies that have done a fair amount of testing and research on the content of their food. You also want to look for references to AAFCO on the label. The acronym stands for the Association of American Feed Control Officials, an organization that makes sure pet food meets nutritional standards.