Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

Pet Talk

February 16, 2011

Healthy hearts for pets

Pauls Valley, Oklahoma — February definitely has heart. It’s the month we celebrate National Heart Awareness and Valentine’s Day. For those reasons, February is a good reminder for owners to learn more about pet heart disease so that their pets can live a long, happy, and healthy life.

Cats and dogs may be born with a congenital heart condition, or they may acquire a heart disease as they age. According to Dr. Crystal Hariu, cardiology resident in small animal medicine and surgery at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, both congenital and acquired heart diseases may be related to structural defects or heart rhythm problems.

“For instance, a heart valve that did not perform properly, or becomes abnormal over time, may not function adequately and could cause problems,” says Hariu. “Congenital and acquired heart diseases may also be related to a heart rhythm problem, meaning the rhythm at which the heart beats is too fast or too slow.”

One of most common heart diseases for pets is heartworm disease.

“Despite its name, heartworm disease is caused by a parasite that primarily affects the lungs,” explains Hariu. “However, it often secondarily affects the heart and can be fatal.”

Fortunately, heartworm disease is completely preventable. A veterinarian can prescribe a monthly medication that will prevent heartworm disease and its devastating effects.

As with other conditions, many of the heart diseases in cats and dogs are hereditary.

“Certain diseases have known genetic mutations that can cause the problem,” notes Hariu. “Other diseases do not have specific mutations worked out yet, but are known to be passed on through breeding.”

Hariu recommends consulting with veterinarians prior to breeding because they can help owners make an informed and responsible decision. Any pet that has a congenital heart disease should not be used for breeding.

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