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Tips for pet heart health


Celebrate Valentine’s Day by keeping your pet’s heart healthy

The North American Veterinary Community (NAVC) is sharing tips for pets during American Heart Month in a organizational release.1 The NAVC stresses to owners to maintain regular veterinary appointments and monitor for signs of heart disease before it affects quality of life.

“Preventative health care in dogs is important since they are unable to talk,” said Brian Scansen, DVM, MS, DACVIM (Cardiology), professor of cardiology at Colorado State University, in the release. “Having your veterinarian listen to your dog’s heart on an annual basis is critical to detect new heart murmurs or abnormal heart rhythms that may be the first sign that heart disease is present.”1

A child holds a puppy at the Puppy Playground during VMX 2023. (Photo courtesy of NAVC)

A child holds a puppy at the Puppy Playground during VMX 2023. (Photo courtesy of NAVC)

Scansen presented the current science and knowledge in the field of canine cardiology at the 2023 Veterinary Meeting & Expo in Orlando, Florida. Breakthroughs in canine cardiology enable veterinarians today to perform advanced procedures saving lives with minimal downtime, but Scansen warns it is important to get ahead of cardiovascular issues before they worsen.

According to Scansen, heart disease is among the top 4 causes of death in dogs, with some studies suggesting it is the second most common cause. Most heart diseases in dogs develop later in life, with degeneration of the heart valves being the most common and estimated to occur in 10% of all dogs. As the valves degenerate, they leak which can lead to a backup of fluid into the lungs. Testing for heart disease in dogs typically involves listening to the heart and lungs, the use of X-rays, and performing a cardiac ultrasound/echocardiogram.1

According to the release, diagnosing a heart issue can be challenging in cats.1 Shannon Murphy, CVT, VTS (Cardiology), stated in a Today’s Veterinary Nurse article, “The absence of a heart murmur is not a good indicator of the absence of disease, as many cats with cardiac disease do not have an appreciable murmur, while the presence of a murmur may be secondary to noncardiac conditions such as fever, anemia, or hyperthyroidism.”2

According to the Morris Animal Foundation, common signs of heart disease in pets include:3

  • Persistent cough
  • Fainting or collapse
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue or inability to exercise
  • Behavior changes

If you see these signs in your dog or cat, Scansen advises pet owners to seek veterinary care for an evaluation. To get ahead of potential heart issues, pet owners can encourage healthy behaviors in their animals through weight management, a healthy diet, regular exercise, and attending annual veterinary exams.


  1. Be your pet’s valentine—support their heart health this February. News release. The North American Veterinary Community. February 13, 2023. Accessed February 13, 2023. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/be-your-pets-valentine---support-their-heart-health-this-february-301745374.html
  2. Murphy S. Clinical relevance of heart murmurs in cats. Today's Veterinary Nurse. Published November 18, 2022. Accessed February 13, 2023. https://todaysveterinarynurse.com/cardiology/clinical-relevance-of-heart-murmurs-in-cats/?oly_enc_id=
  3. 5 Common signs of heart disease in dogs. Morris Animal Foundation. Updated February 10, 2023. Accessed February 13, 2023. https://www.morrisanimalfoundation.org/article/heart-disease-signs-dogs
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