Make pet's heart your focus on Valentine's Day
Friday, Feb. 13, 2015
MANHATTAN — It's estimated that this Valentine's Day pet owners will spend about $703 million on gifts for their beloved dogs and cats, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation. But a Kansas State University veterinarian says rather than giving your dog a heart-shaped chew toy, consider using the holiday to take care of your dog's heart — literally.
Justin Thomason, assistant professor of cardiology at the university's Veterinary Health Center, says much like humans, pets can develop heart conditions. But the good news is that most of these conditions can be treated.
"A lot of times pet owners assume there is nothing that can be done with heart murmurs in pets when, in fact, there are a lot of technologies and medicines that have been produced over the years that can provide pets a great quality of life for as long as possible," Thomason said.
Some animals are born with heart disease, which may be cured with surgical intervention. However, the patients commonly treated at the Veterinary Health Center tend to be middle-aged or geriatric. In the early stages of a pet's heart condition, it usually doesn't show symptoms. For example, a heart murmur is often detected during an annual wellness exam. As the heart disease progresses, coughing, labored breathing, fainting and/or exercise intolerance can be noted. Thomason says when your dog or cat is diagnosed with a heart murmur, it is best to seek out a cardiologist.
"For middle-aged to geriatric animals, a lot of heart conditions don't have a specific cure, but we do have medication to treat the symptoms," Thomason said. "Our goal is to slow the progression of the disease and delay the onset of symptoms for as long as we can, and also give them a great quality of life during that time."
Similar to human health, exercise and good nutrition can help your pet maintain a healthy heart. But Thomason says be cautious when exercising a dog diagnosed with a heart condition because it won't know its limits.
"A lot of times a dog's goal is to please the owners, so it won't self-regulate like a person would," Thomason said. "They'll sacrifice symptoms they may be having and they'll overdo it. We try to coach owners on what level of activity is appropriate so their pet won't wear itself out."
Thomason says to watch your pet for symptoms of heart disease and contact your veterinarian if you notice any changes.