When we think of February, Valentine's Day sucks up all the holiday energy in the room. With so much attention paid to the affairs of the heart, it's no accident that February is also Heart Health Awareness Month! And while the human heart plays the star role in these holidays, many of us care just as much (and maybe even more) about the healthiness of our companion animals' heart.
Most people have a basic understanding of the risks of heart disease in humans, but when it comes to canine and feline heart health, these areas remain a tad more mysterious.
In the following FAQs, we’ll look at some of the similarities between humans, dogs and cats, hopefully resulting a better appreciation of these amazing feats of biological engineering.
1. How Widespread is Heart Disease?
Humans: In America, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Annually, about 610,000 people die of heart disease, accounting for a quarter of all deaths.
Dogs & Cats: Even though reliable statistics are not readily available for adult felines or canines, we do know that heart disease is not nearly as common as in humans. Only about 10% of dogs ever develop valvular heart disease. As with many maladies, risks for heart disease increase with age, especially for dogs over the age of nine (later for some breeds). Tracking heart disease in cats has proven challenging, as felines exhibit very few if any physical symptoms due to this condition.
2. What’s the Most Common Form of Heart Disease?
Humans: In adults, coronary artery disease is the most prevalent kind of heart disease. The main type involves accumulation of arterial plaque, which affects blood flow to the heart. As the layers of plaque thicken and harden, blood flow can be further restricted.
Dogs & Cats: The biggest difference here is that companion animals are not at-risk for coronary artery disease. While that’s good news, keep in mind they can face other medical conditions. For example, dogs can suffer from mitral valve disease or dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). Mitral valve disease describes a condition where a valve on the left side of the heart fails to close properly. The problem with this is that blood pools into the left atrium, rather than exiting the left ventricle. Older, small breeds are more likely to develop mitral valve disease, a condition that can be aggravated by periodontal disease. DCM weakens the heart muscle so that it pumps less vigorously and regularly, a condition more common in large breeds. Cats, on the other hand, are more likely to experience hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). Here, the walls of the heart thicken, resulting in reduced muscle flexibility which decreases the volume of blood pumped. HCM is a genetic disease that is found in both pure and mixed breed cats.
3. What are the Symptoms of Heart Disease?
Humans: Symptoms vary depending on the disease, but patients with coronary artery disease often have chest pain, arm pain and shallow breathing. As the condition deteriorates, there’s a risk of heart attack.
Dogs & Cats: Dogs typically exhibit signs such as low energy, general discomfort, labored breathing and even a low-pitched, chronic cough. On occasion, they might actually pass out. Cats may also become lethargic, sleeping excessively or hiding for extended periods. It's also not uncommon for cats to lose their appetite. Some may even be at risk of blood clots, which in some cases may lead to pain and possible paralysis.
4. Is Exercise Equally Beneficial?
Humans: Yes, definitely! Exercise lowers the risk of heart attack and reduces stress, another risk factor for heart disease.
Dogs & Cats: The kinds of heart disease commonly found in cats and dogs can't be avoided through exercise. But, as with people, regular exercise will improve overall health and help prevent obesity in pets, which certainly factors on heart health.
5. One Thing Everyone Can Agree On - Eat Healthy!
It’s hard to overstate the importance of quality food for humans and for companion animals. While significantly more research has been done on the benefits of essential fatty acid supplementation in humans, the science demonstrates similar results for dogs and cats, too.
But how can you be certain that you and your companion animals are getting plenty of omega-3’s and omega-6's? By taking an ultra-refined supplement daily! To ensure you are getting the quality you and your pets deserve, choose an omega supplement that has an IFOS 5-Star Rating. This independent, third-party testing validates that you are getting a safe and effective supplement that you can feel confident giving to any member of your family! If you're in the market for a superior supplement, look no further than Life's Abundance Fish Oil Supplement for people and Ultra-Pure Fish Oil Supplement for dogs and cats!
Take care of your heart and it'll help take care of you!
Dr. Jane Bicks, DVM