Many of you know that I lost Tara to congestive heart failure (CHF) last July following a 10 month battle. I learned so much through her illness, but the main thing I can't stress enough is the importance of being proactive with regards to your pet's health. The summer of 2012 was brutally hot here in Vermont. Tara always minded the heat terribly and rarely left her spot right in front of the air conditioner. Mid-summer I noticed her breathing harder and every now and then open-mouthed breathing as well. I chalked it up to the heat. But when it got to the point that I could actually "hear" her breathing (a raspy, huffing sound), I knew it was time to seek help. In late August she was diagnosed with the CHF and an enlarged heart. Fluid was removed from her chest cavity and she was put on a regimen of diuretics, blood thinner, ACE inhibitors and pimobendan. After 3 months her cardiologist was surprised that she was still with me, then another 4 months went by, then another 3.
I know that her heart disease would have taken her from me regardless, but I can't help but wonder if I hadn't let those precious weeks pass by blaming her symptoms on the heat, maybe we would have had more time together.
In recognition of American Heart Month, I recently received an email from Trupanion Pet Insurance with the results of a feline heart health study. I found it to be extremely informative and with permission I'm reprinting it here today.
KNOWING YOUR PET: THE RISK OF HEART DISEASE IN CATS
Trupanion provides data on heart health cats for American Heart Month
As is true with humans, a cat’s age, genetics and lifestyle have a huge influence on their risk of heart disease. Age is one of the most influential factors—as a cat gets older their chance for diagnosis increases significantly. According to data from Trupanion, the frequency of heart claims rapidly increase starting at 9 years old and continue to increase as the cat ages.
Heart disease in pets is often genetic and affects certain breeds of cats and dogs more often than others. Knowing the breed of the pet can help predict their chances of having heart disease. Among cats, Bengals and Sphynx are 3.5 times more likely to receive heart care. In general, Trupanion receives 50% more heart claims with cats than dogs.
Lifestyle also plays a factor. Talk with your veterinarian about the best diet and exercise regimen to keep your pet healthy. In addition to diet and exercise, heartworm prevention, dental care and yearly checkups are essential for maintaining your pet’s health.
Even when taking precautions, pet owners need to be aware of the symptoms of heart disease.
“Pet owners should take their pets to a regular checkup and look out for coughing, a swollen abdomen, changing behavior, difficulty breathing, loss of appetite, and significant weight changes. If your pet starts to show these signs, it’s best to have them checked right away by a veterinarian,” said Trupanion’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr. Kerri Marshall. “Early diagnosis and treatment can make a huge difference.”
This month, think about what you can do to improve the heart health of your feline companions. A few small lifestyle changes can make a huge difference in maintaining a healthy heart and living a long, active life.