02/12/2020 Heart Health Month: Dogs Matter Too!

Allison Walsh

Heart Health Month: Dogs Matter Too!

It’s National Heart Health Month, and it’s the perfect time to think about not only your own heart health, but the heart health of our beloved dogs. While heart disease affects man’s best friend differently than it does humans, it’s still critical to take measures to prevent heart problems like congestive heart failure in dogs. Taking some preventive measures now can ensure you get plenty more years with your pooch, and here are a few prevention tips you can follow as we celebrate heart health month for our dogs.

Tip #1 – Watch your dog’s weight

Overweight pets have a higher risk for a variety of health issues, including heart problems. In fact, obesity is the top nutritional disease seen in pets today and being overweight could shorten your dog’s life by up to two years1. Know what the healthy weight is for your dog breed and work to maintain a healthy weight to prevent heart disease, diabetes, joint disease, and other health issues.

Tip #2 – Ensure Fido gets plenty of exercise

One of the best ways to fight obesity is to make sure Fido is getting plenty of exercise, and it’s the perfect time to get fit together. Beyond taking your dog for a walk (which offers excellent benefits), WebMD gives some great suggestions for exercising together so you both enjoy the benefits2. Additional exercise ideas include:

  • Doggie Dancing – Try dancing with your pooch to music. Dance will improve stamina, burn calories, improve bone density, and improve muscle tone.
  • Jogging – While not all dogs like to jog, breeds like Labradors are well-suited to distance running. Just make sure you wait until Fido is fully grown and build up to longer periods of jogging slowly.
  • Swimming – A great all-in-one workout, it’s the perfect choice if your dog has arthritis.
  • Agility Training – This goal-oriented sport is great for dogs who love to please and can improve coordination while offering a great cardiovascular workout. Many dog parks have agility courses you can use.

 Tip #3 – Make dental care a priority

There’s a strong connection between dental disease and heart disease in dogs (and humans). The bacteria from plaque can enter your dog’s bloodstream, spreading to organs like the heart, liver, and kidneys causing damage3. Maintain a healthy dental care regiment with your dog and be aware of the common signs of dental disease in your pets, such as4:

  • Refusing to eat or drink or reduced appetite
  • Loose or broken teeth
  • Bad breath
  • Bleeding in the mouth
  • Discolored teeth or teeth covered in tartar
  • Retained baby teeth or extra teeth
  • Swelling in or around the mouth
  • Abnormal drooling or chewing

Tip #4 – Feed your dog a healthy diet

Healthy dogs need a healthy, well-balanced diet. Nutrition plays a major role in proper organ function, skin health, joint health, heart health, and more. The wrong diet can contribute to your dog’s risk of developing heart problems. Many foods are problematic because they’re low on high quality meat. Other problems can occur because the dog is getting too much protein.  Dogs are omnivores and require diets that are balanced in carbs, fats and proteins.  5,6

Tip #5 – Familiarize yourself with your dog’s breed

Some dog breeds have genetic predispositions for certain types of heart problems, and it’s essential to know your dog’s breed so you can catch any problems early before they progress into more serious issues. Some of the most common inherited heart diseases seen in dogs include dilated cardiomyopathy and degenerative mitral valve disease. Dog breeds prone to heart issues include:

  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
  • Toy and Miniature Poodles
  • Dachshunds
  • Boxers
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Miniature Schnauzers
  • Golden Retrievers7

Tip #6 – Don’t forget routine checkups

Remember, dogs age a lot faster than humans do. You should be taking your dog in for a checkup at least once yearly. After all, a year is really about 5-7 in people years for dogs. Older dogs should see the vet more often and usually require bi-annual visits. While you’re visiting the veterinarian for routine checkups, be sure to ask questions about heart health and get vet-approved tips for improving your dog’s heart health.

Tip #7 – Know the symptoms of heart disease

While the goal is to prevent heart disease, knowing the symptoms of heart disease can help you detect problems early. Although in the earliest stages you may not notice any visible signs, you’ll eventually begin to notice signs in your dog’s health. Some of the common symptoms of heart failure and other heart problems in dogs may include8:

  • Changes in breathing
  • Labored breathing
  • Fast or rapid breathing
  • Problems breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Poor appetite
  • Coughing
  • Behavioral changes
  • Not wanting to exercise
  • Slowing down
  • Depression
  • Lack of energy
  • Easily tiring
  • Less playful
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Weakness
  • Collapsing or fainting
  • Getting restless at night

 As you think about National Heart Health Month, don’t forget to consider your dog’s heart health, too. Follow these tips and talk to your veterinarian about even more ways you can keep your dog’s ticker happy and healthy.

References

  1. -     PetMD. (2015, August 18). Five Life-Lengthening Health Tips for Your Pet. Retrieved from https://www.petmd.com/dog/care/evr_multi_life-lengthening_pet_health_tips#
  2. -     Exercising With Your Dog. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/ss/slideshow-exercising-with-your-dog
  3. -     (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.yourdogsheart.com/diagnosis-and-detection/heart-disease-symptoms.html
  4. -     Pet dental care. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/pet-owners/petcare/pet-dental-care
  5. -     PetMD. (2016, June 10). The Dangers of High Protein Dog Foods. Retrieved from https://www.petmd.com/dog/centers/nutrition/evr_dg_dangers_of_high_protein_dog_foods
  6. -     Conklin, L. M. (n.d.). The Food That Could Give Your Dog Heart Disease. Retrieved from https://www.rd.com/advice/pets/food-give-dog-heart-disease/
  7. -     PetMD. (2017, October 30). 7 Dog Breeds at Risk for Heart Disease. Retrieved from https://www.petmd.com/dog/slideshows/7-dog-breeds-risk-heart-disease
  8. -     Dog Congestive Heart Failure Symptoms, Treatments, Causes. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://fullexams.com/exam/tests-for-heart-disease-in-dogs

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