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When it comes to both people and dogs, heart health is important. For humans, this means paying attention to your diet and getting plenty of exercise.
For dogs, however, things work a little differently.
“Diet and exercise do not matter the same for a dog’s heart health as they do for people,” Amanda Coleman, an associate professor in the department of small animal medicine and surgery at the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine in Athens, told American Heart Association News.
Dogs can be born with heart problems, or they can develop them over time. The most common heart problem in dogs is a degenerative condition called is mitral valve disease, AHA News reported.
“Symptoms include shortness of breath, rapid breathing, coughing and occasionally fainting, sometimes brought on by excitement or exertion,” said Jonathan Abbott, an associate professor of veterinary cardiology in the department of small animal clinical sciences at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
“If you see these symptoms, seek veterinary attention,” he told the nonprofit organization.
It’s important to have your dog’s heart checked at least once a year, as 10% of dogs in the United States suffer from heart disease, according to Veterinary Centers of America.
During visits, veterinarians can listen for signs of heart problems like murmurs or irregular heart beats.
Vets can also check for signs of heartworm, a parasitic disease that’s passed on by mosquitos, Abbott said. Heartworm can lead to heart failure in dogs but can be prevented with several treatment options (chewable, topical or injected), according to the AHA.
Emily Karlin, assistant professor at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in Grafton, Massachusetts, said. “Make sure their heart gets listened to every year, so if a murmur or arrhythmia develops, you catch it early.”
Coleman says that dogs don’t develop heart disease for the same reasons that humans do. Still, it’s important for your dog to undergo regular exams.
“Animals are really good at hiding heart disease because they can’t tell us how they are feeling,” she said. “The most important thing you can do for your dog is to see a vet regularly.”