Heart disease in pets may appear at any time, but its occurrence dramatically increases in older dogs and cats. In fact, its is estimated that as many as 60 to 75 percent of older pets experience some form of heart disease. If a pet exhibits any of the following signs, a veterinarian should be seen as soon as possible for a thorough examination:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing
  • Reluctance to play or exercise
  • Collapsing or fainting
  • Distended belly
  • Slow growth rate

If heart disease is suspected, primary care veterinarians often call upon Southern California Veterinary Specialty Hospital’s board-certified cardiologist for consultation. In older dogs, acquired cardiovascular problems such as mitral valve disease or dilated cardiomyopathy may be detected.

Newborn and young pets also may be at risk, with defects such as patent ductus arteriosus, aortic or pulmonic stenosis, valve malformations, and ventricular or atrial septal defects – all common causes of congenital heart disease

Regardless of its cause, early diagnosis of heart disease is critical for improving and possibly extending a pet’s life. Cardiology diagnostic services include:

  • Echocardiography, including 2-D, M-mode, Doppler and 3-D techniques
  • Electrocardiography, using digital 12-lead EKG machines with Holter or event monitors
  • Digital radiography
  • Fluoroscopy
  • Angiography
  • Indirect (oscillometric and Doppler) and direct blood pressure analyses

Once a diagnosis is determined, SCVSH’s board-certified cardiologists may recommend interventional measures such as pacemaker implantation, balloon valvuloplasty or patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) occlusion. Conservative medicinal treatments may also be prescribed for disease management.