If I were to say, “February is American Heart Month.” Most people would be like, “yeah, I know.” However, February is also American Heart Month for pets.
There is Always a Need to be Their Voice
Being a widower myself, I know all to well the devastation heart disease can bring. I lost my wife to a massive heart attack and anytime you lose someone close so suddenly, it is devastating.
Our pets are no different because they are our family too. Furthermore, unlike the people in our lives, we must always be the voice for our furry family members.
So, because of that, we must be extra vigilant in our care and concern.
The Signs of Hidden Dangers
The importance of awareness is sometimes overlooked. This can be especially dangerous when it is a major health problem in dogs.
The health problem I am referring to is heart disease. It is estimated that 10% of dogs have heart disease and this percentage increases as dogs age.
Heart disease is believed to affect approximately 25% of dogs 9 to 12 years of age. This increases to as many as 75% of all dogs 16 years of age or older.
Know the Warning Signs and Start Screening
Most pet parents are unaware that their dogs may be at risk for heart disease. Unfortunately, this lack of awareness can mean that they fail to bring their dogs in for routine monitoring. But with early diagnosis of heart disease and appropriate treatment, both the length and quality of a dog’s life can be improved.
Every year, our pets suffer from the effects of heart-related conditions such as heart disease, Heartworms, and heart murmurs.
Like most diseases, the earlier the diagnosis the better. With this in mind, a long and happy life is still possible if the symptoms of heart disease are caught early.
The Statistics May Astound You
Healthy Paws, a leading Pet Insurance and Foundation, reported that they processed nearly 4,000 heart issue-related claims in 2016 alone.
They also stated that the average bill for treatment was $385. Altogether, they reimbursed a total of $929,000 in heart issue-related claims. Their most claim was in the amount of $12,736 for the treatment of a golden retriever’s heart condition.
There are many dogs that are at risk of heart disease. This is dependent upon the breed, age, and or size of the dog in question. However, there is hope. With simple lifestyle changes, you can lower the risk of heart conditions for your Pit Bull.
How Noticeable Are the Signs?
“Feeding your pet a healthy diet, ensuring they get regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle to prevent obesity will help keep their heart in good health, decreasing the risk of developing certain conditions,” says veterinarian Dr. Kristonn Colborn.
Warning signs include a dislike of exercise or play and possibly a shortness of breath. Your pet may experience difficulty breathing and even restlessness during sleep. In addition, you should also keep an eye out for fainting and blueness of the skin and mucous membranes (cyanosis).
The truth of the matter is, warning signs are not always evident. This is why it is crucial that you bring your pets in for regularly scheduled veterinarian visits.
Regular Veterinarian Visits Are Key to Early Detection
“Be sure to have your pet examined once a year or twice if they are over seven years of age. This will allow your vet the best chance to detect problems early on and provide treatment before the disease has had the opportunity to progress,” advises Dr. Colborn.
On February 4, 1735, Benjamin Franklin first unleashed this famous quote unto the world. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
This quote still rings true some 283 years later. Especially, when we are referring to heart disease in our pets.
Can Owning a Pet Also Protect You From Heart Disease?
Your pet needs you and that is a given, but what you may not know is that you need your pet too. The fact that many health professionals have come to agree on is that owning a pet is healthy.
“Over the last decade or so there have been periodic reports on the association between pet ownership and cardiovascular risk,” said Dr. Glenn N. Levine.
Dr. Levine is a cardiologist with the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Administration Medical Center in Houston and lead author of a new scientific statement by the American Heart Association.
Owning a Pet Is Good for Your Heart
Here are a few findings from some of the studies they reviewed.
Pet owners had lower systolic blood pressure, pulse pressure, and mean arterial pressure. They also saw a reduction in risk of high blood pressure.
Ambulatory BP monitoring showed significantly lower systolic blood pressure in the people who adopted a dog. These results were observed after only five months of adopting and as early as two months.
The Data Paints a Clear Picture of the Benefits of Pet Ownership
Compared with non-owners and new cat owners, new dog owners increased their recreational walking significantly more over a 10-month period.
On average, dog owners engaged in significantly more physical activity than non-owners (322.4 vs 267.1 minutes per week).
Also, dog owners walked significantly more than non-owners (150.3 vs 110.9 minutes per week).
In Most Cases, It Would Appear That the Rescuer is the One Being Rescued
After adjustment, dog owners were 57 percent more likely than non-owners to achieve the recommended level of physical activity.
There is almost no circumstance in which getting more exercise is not beneficial. These results are a welcomed surprise to most and it is just one more reason to love your four-legged family member.
Finally, These Are the Most Important Facts to Remember
- Many dogs are at risk of heart disease based on breed, age, or size.
- Cardiac disease is slowly progressive in most dogs.
- It is important to monitor dogs at risk by bringing them in for regularly scheduled clinic visits, even before a dog shows clinical signs.
- There are things owners can do to monitor their dogs, such as taking a resting respiratory rate and observing them closely to catch early warning signs of heart disease progression.
- Dogs can live longer and have a better quality of life if they are treated early when signs of heart failure first appear.
- Lastly, owning a dog can extend your life and improve your quality of life.