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Vets Urge Owners to Look For Signs of Heart Disease In Dogs

Vets Urge Owners to Look Out For Signs of Heart Disease In Senior ‘petizen’ Dogs - media release

8 May 2013. Wellington. Advances in animal health and nutrition mean that dogs are living longer. It’s a great achievement for the modern day pet. However, as in humans, a longer life and better veterinary diagnostics mean health conditions such as congestive heart disease are being seen more often.

“Unfortunately, many owners fail to recognise the early symptoms of heart disease in their pets, putting them down to ‘old age’. In missing the early signs, they may be missing the opportunity to give their pets a better quality life as a senior ‘petizen’,” Dr Catherine Watson from the New Zealand Veterinary Association’s Companion Animal Society, said.

“Heart disease can affect a significant proportion of older dogs, particularly of certain breeds. Behavioural changes such as a reluctance to go for a walk are often signs of an underlying condition. Even subtle changes in behaviour are a reason to contact your vet because these are the first signs of illness,” she said.

The top ten signs of congestive heart failure for dog owners to look out for include:

• Coughing – minor coughs tend to last a few days. If after this time your dog is still coughing, seek advice from your local veterinarian.

• Difficulty breathing – including shortness of breath, laboured or rapid breathing.

• Changes in behaviour – such as tiring more easily, being less playful, reluctance to exercise or accept affection, being withdrawn.

• Poor appetite – especially if combined with other symptoms on this list.

• Weight loss or gain – while weight loss is more common, some dogs with heart disease develop a bloated abdomen.

• Fainting – seek veterinary help immediately if your dog collapses or faints, as it could be a sign of one of several serious illnesses, including heart disease.

• Weakness – while this comes with old age, if it is combined with other symptoms there could be something else going on.

• Restlessness – particularly at night.

• Oedema – swelling of the body tissues particularly in the abdomen and other extremities.

• Isolation – distancing itself from you and other pets.

The NZVA recommends annual health checks for pets, and twice a year checks for dogs over the age of 11 (depending on the breed).

“As in all diseases, the earlier it’s detected and you start treatment, the better the outcome. Often a vet can detect disease just by listening to the heart, well before any symptoms become evident. Your vet can discuss the best care options for your senior petizen.”


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