February 09, 2022 Cardiology

How to Protect Your Pet’s Heart

Veterinarian listens to dog's heartbeat

How to Protect Your Pet’s Heart

February is American Heart Month in recognition of the more than 600,000 Americans who die from heart disease every year. In a normal year, heart disease is the number one cause of death and affects people of all ages, genders, and ethnicities. Risk factors include obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and these days, COVID-19. Since dogs and cats also get heart disease, many pet families wonder if the same risk factors apply to their pet. Today’s blog post will look at some of the human risk factors for heart disease and discuss their relationship to heart disease in pets. 

Feline Diabetes and Heart Disease

Veterinarian listens to a cat's heartbeat

A diagnosis of type 2 diabetes in people increases risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. Diabetes in cats is similar to type 2 diabetes in people – it can go into remission with a high protein diet and weight loss. However, there is currently limited information suggesting cardiac changes may occur in cats with diabetes. Regardless, obesity is a known risk factor for both feline diabetes and heart disease, so keeping your cat in ideal body condition can protect against the development of both diseases.

Nutrition and Heart Disease in Dogs and Cats

Obesity is a nutritional disease caused when caloric intake is greater than caloric expenditure. Obesity is a major cause of heart disease in people. Pets, like people, have a high rate of obesity; some estimate 60% of cats and 56% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. The link between obesity and heart disease in pets is not as strong as it is in humans. But, obesity in pets is linked to arthritis, diabetes mellitus, hepatic lipidosis and early mortality. Keeping your pet in ideal body condition will keep them healthier longer.

Cardiomyopathy is another nutritional disorder of dog and cat hearts. Due to an unexplained link between grain-free diets and heart disease, the FDA has issued a warning about grain free pet foods in both dogs and cats.

Hypertension in Dogs and Cats

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is another contributor to the development of heart disease in humans. High blood pressure occurs in dogs and cats, but it is most often a sign of a disease and not the cause. For example, a diagnosis of chronic kidney disease will trigger blood pressure monitoring in dogs and cats because secondary hypertension is a common complication. Feline hyperthyroidism is another cause of secondary hypertension. Luckily, hypertension in pets is not a cause of heart disease.

COVID-19 and Heart Conditions in Pets

In people, COVID-19 can increase the risk of heart attacks, stroke, heart inflammation, heart failure and arrhythmias While our favorite fur persons are relatively resistant to SARS-CoV-2 infection, a recent report out of England implicated the SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.7 in a number of cases of heart inflammation in dogs and cats

What can you do to protect your pet’s heart?

In summary, pet owners should take the following steps to maintain healthy heart functioning in their favorite fur person: 

  1. Avoid Grain-Free Diets: If you are feeding a grain-free diet to your pet, talk to your veterinarian about the optimal food for your pet.
  2. Protect Against COVID-19: Protect yourself against COVID-19 to avoid passing the virus to your pet and quarantine away from your pet if you contract COVID-19.
  3. Maintain a Healthy Weight: Keep your pet at an ideal weight to protect against diabetes and potential secondary heart disease.
Tags: american heart month, BCS, body condition score, cardiomyopathy, COVID-19, DCM, Diet-Related DCM, Feline diabetes, heart month, hypertension, SARS-CoV-2, veterinary cardiology,

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