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How to Recognize the Signs of Heart Disease in Pets


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Whether in humans or pets, heart disease is a very serious condition. The sooner you can catch the symptoms, the better chance you have to come up with an effective treatment plan to bring your pet well into its golden years.

Because your cat or dog can not tell you when something is wrong, it is extremely important for pet owners to educate themselves on the signs of heart disease.

These symptoms vary slightly between dogs and cats, so be sure to look out for these species-specific signs of heart disease:

Signs of Heart Disease in Cats

Heart disease in cats can be either congenital or acquired.

Congenital heart disease is present at birth because of a genetic predisposition from either parent. Acquired heart disease shows up later in life and can be the result of age, injury, or infection.

If your cat presents any of these symptoms, it could be a sign of new or worsening heart disease:

  • Depression
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unable to tolerate exercise
  • Short, raspy breaths
  • Lethargy
  • Weight fluctuation
  • Paralysis in front or rear legs
  • Increased reclusiveness
  • Chronic cough
  • Fainting or collapsing

Signs of Heart Disease in Dogs

One of the first signs of heart disease a dog owner will notice is lethargy.

If a normally active dog is suddenly slowing down or needing breaks during normal exercise, it could indicate a problem. Watch out for these other signs of canine heart disease:

  • Depression
  • Heavy breathing after exertion
  • Fainting or collapsing
  • General weakness
  • Reluctance to exercise or play
  • Persistent coughing
  • Increased respiratory rate at rest
  • Fluctuating weight
  • Nighttime restlessness
  • Distended abdomen
  • Gum or tongue color change to bluish-gray (poor oxygen flow)

Receiving a Diagnosis

If your pet is exhibiting any of these symptoms, you should call your vet immediately. With heart disease, time is of the essence.

Your vet will want to know about your pet’s current diet, any medications or supplements, and whether they are currently on heartworm protection, so be sure to have that information handy.

Your pet will then have a physical exam, after which the vet may order some additional testing such as:

  • Blood and urine test
  • Chest X-ray
  • EKG
  • Ultrasound

Depending on the results, your primary vet may refer you to a cardiologist. There you may receive recommendations for diet, exercise and possibly medications.

Quality Pet Care in Potomac, MD

They say “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and for good reason! At Falls Road Veterinary Hospital, we believe in regular wellness visits with your cat or dog so we can catch issues early and get them back on a healthy path. Schedule your pet’s wellness exam today!

If your pet does need emergency treatment, come in immediately or call (301) 485-5898. We have staff on duty 6 days a week who are trained to handle urgent care.


Contact Us

Falls Road Veterinary Hospital


10229 Falls Road Potomac, MD 20854

Clinic Hours

Mon-Wed: 8:00am - 8:00pm
Thur & Fri : 8:00am - 6:00pm
Sat: 8:00am - 1:00pm
Sun: Closed