Heart Disease


Elizabeth Rogers, DVM

What is Heart Disease?

Heart or cardiovascular disease is any medical condition of the heart or blood vessels that disrupts the normal function of the heart or vessels ability to deliver oxygenated blood to the patient. Heart disease can be broken down into two categories – congenital (born with it) or acquired (happens later). Examples of congenital disease include PDA or Patent Ductus Arteriosus or Atrial Septal Defect (hole in the heart wall).  Examples of acquired disease include valvular heart disease. Some breeds have inherited heart disease that can be either congenital or acquired.

How do I know if my pet has heart disease?

Patients can vary on symptoms including:

  • exercise intolerance
  • decreased energy level
  • shortness of breath
  • difficulty breathing
  • coughing
  • restlessness during sleep
  • fainting
  • cyanosis (blue tinge to mucous membranes and tongue)
  • weight loss or gain

** Some patients do not show these symptoms until the heart disease is more advanced.

Yearly exams allow veterinarians to listen to your pet’s heart to detect presence of heart disease hopefully before symptoms develop. During the exam, the heart is listened to with a stethoscope and a complete physical exam to determine if:

  • Heart sounds- normal or abnormal (heart murmur or turbulent blood flow is present)
  • Heart rate- normal, fast, or slow
  • Heart beat or rhythm of heart – regular or irregular
  • Peripheral pulses- normal or abnormal
  • Color of mucous membranes


If any abnormalities are detected then a cardiac work up would be recommended- labwork, chest radiographs, and EKG. Depending on results, a referral to a veterinary cardiologist may also be recommended for a cardiac ultrasound.


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