Cedar Pet Clinic Blog

Protecting your Pet’s Heart: What You Need to Know About Pet Heart Disease

We love our pets with all of our hearts, and they love us back equally. As a pet parent, you want to do everything you can to protect your best friend, and we want to help you do just that. We believe the first step in protecting pets is educating their parents, which is why we want you to know the facts when it comes to your pet’s heart health.
Did you know that heart disease in pets is almost as common as heart disease in humans? That’s right - pets, large and small, can develop heart complications and heart disease. From Great Danes to Chihuahuas, tabbies to Siamese cats, ferrets to rabbits, all creatures are at risk of developing heart problems.
The first question every pet parent wants to know: is heart disease fatal? The heartbreaking answer is yes, when left untreated for too long. Once a pet reaches the point of congestive heart failure, there is no cure or treatment.
Before you panic, keep reading to learn what you need to know to protect your pet from suffering the complications associated with heart disease.

Heart Disease and Dogs

Heart disease is a pretty common problem for our canine companions. Ultimately, about 10% of dogs experience heart disease.  Unlike the heart problems people face, the range of heart diseases and risk factors for dogs differs greatly.

The Most Prevalent Canine Heart Disease: Valvular Disease
Valvular disease may seem like a mouthful to say, but it’s pretty straightforward in its effect. 75% of dog heart disease we see is heart valve-related. 

What is Valvular Disease?
If you recall your middle school years and learning about how the human heart functions, you already have a good idea of how your dog’s heart operates:
Blood flows into the chambers, and the heart uses valves to stop the blood for a moment to re-oxygenate the blood before the thump and beat of the muscles pushes the blood out and around the body. The heart’s valves also keep the blood flowing in the right direction. 
Valvular failure occurs when these valves wear and change in shape. The seal they form isn’t as tight as it needs to be, and a tiny bit of blood leaks in the wrong direction with each pump. 
Over time, the heart has to compensate for the lack of efficiency by enlarging to push enough blood through the body. Eventually, the heart cannot keep up: the muscles wear out, the walls of the heart become thin and stretched, and the heart fails.

What Dogs Are At Higher Risk for Valvular Disease?
This disease is most frequently seen in the smallest dog breeds. It can be found in medium and large dogs, as well, but is much more prevalent in small dogs.

Other Deadly Heart Diseases in Dogs
One fact that will always be disappointing to us is that the second most common heart disease affecting dogs is completely preventable. Heartworm disease accounts for 13% of cases of canine heart disease. All it takes is a simple appointment and a prescription for heartworm prevention to ensure your dog is protected against this one.
Other canine heart diseases include myocardial disease and dilated cardiomyopathy. Dilated cardiomyopathy primarily affects large breed dogs. 

How Are Grain-Free Dog Diets Related to Heart Disease?
One question that keeps popping up from dog owners is: Why do I keep reading in the news that grain-free diets are linked to heart disease? As of right now, there is no conclusive evidence that a grain-free diet causes heart problems for dogs but there has been an increase in heart complications in low-risk dogs that eat strict grain-free diets, so the FDA is studying the issue.  Given the FDA concern, our doctors no longer recommend feeding a grain free diet unless specifically recommended for a health reason.
If you are worried about your dog’s diet, we can answer any questions you may have.

Heart Disease and Cats

Nine lives or not, you want to keep your cat’s heart in optimal condition! Like dogs, about 10% of cats will develop heart disease.
The causes of cat heart disease can vary. Some cats are born with malformations in their heart valves while others develop heart irregularities over the course of their lives. Like dogs, cat heart valves can wear out over time. They can also experience heart murmurs along with tears in their heart valves, walls, and arteries.  While it is not endemic to felines, cats can also contract heartworms.  
When left undiagnosed and untreated, heart disease will result in heart failure which is fatal for cats as well.

Heart Disease and Other Pets

As you’re probably aware, we see all types of companion animals: from birds to hedgehogs, turtles, and ferrets! We believe all animals deserve protection and the best care. We tailor our exams to make sure all pets’ hearts are in good health. Heart health is imperative to your pet’s longevity. If you have an exotic pet, we have the expertise needed for their special hearts, too!

Symptoms and Warnings of Pet Heart Disease

The key to treating heart disease before it transitions to heart failure is an early diagnosis. Unfortunately, the first stages of pet heart disease are often symptom-less. As the heart slowly enlarges, it is able to supply enough oxygen to the body; it’s not until the heart can no longer compensate that symptoms appear.
As heart disease progresses, pets then begin to show signs such as trouble catching their breath, weight loss, lethargy, coughing, and bloating. When these signs appear, it’s often too late.
Annual exams are the best way to catch heart complications early on. We can listen to your pet’s heart and explore deeper if needed. 
If it’s time to check your pet’s heart health or set up an annual exam, give us a call at 651.770.3250 or use our appointment portal to request your pet's visit to see us.
 Image credit: humonia | iStock | Getty Images Plus

8 Tips to Keep Your Pet Safe During Summer Heat

Summer: the kids are out of school, the ice creams trucks chime as they drift through our neighborhoods, and our beloved pets are excited to enjoy some summertime adventures. While we can’t wait to hear about all the expeditions you emBARK upon, we also want to share some unbeatable tips to help you and your pet beat the heat this summer!

1. Save Your Walks and Exercise for Mornings and Evenings

One easy way to keep your cat or dog safe in the summer heat is to keep them indoors during the hottest times of the day. Walking your dog when the sun is still low or ready to set will help you sweat less and keep your dog cool as she burns off her extra energy. Be especially mindful of our flat-nosed pup friends, i.e. pugs, bulldogs. They can sometimes struggle to breathe in the heat. 

2. Watch for Signs of Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke

In many ways, dogs are like kids: they never say “no” to a treat, they are always up for an adventure, and they never seem to tire out when they’re having fun. The last one is especially true and one reason we end up treating many dogs during the summer for heatstroke and heat exhaustion. 
When your dog is having fun, she doesn’t know to slow down as she gets too hot, which makes watching for signs of overheating even more important.
Heatstroke can do permanent damage and even be fatal.

Signs of Heatstroke (in Dogs and Cats)
  • Pale or bright red gums
  • A vividly red tongue
  • Fast panting that doesn’t slow down
  • Trouble breathing
  • Lethargy or reluctance to play
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle tremors and shaking
  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizure
  • Stumbling or falling over
  • Lack of urination
  • Confusion
  • Coma
If you think your dog is experiencing heatstroke, you will want to dowse her in cool or room temperature water (not freezing cold water--this will send her into shock). Then call us and bring her in immediately. 

3. Provide Plenty of Fresh Water for Your Pets
If your dog or cat is planning on lounging in the backyard or on the patio, make sure she has access to clean, fresh, cool water. Keeping hydrated during summer will help your pet better manage the heat.
Did you know that dogs and cats pant to cool off? Panting leads to water evaporating off their tongues which cools them off. They also lie on cool surfaces to transfer their heat away from their bodies.
If you’re planning a long walk or hike, bring bottled water. While it’s a blast for dogs to splash in the lake, you don’t want your dog to drink too much lake water. 

4. Don’t Let Your Pup or Cat Burn Their Precious Paws
Dogs’ and cats’ toes are especially vulnerable since they don’t have fur to protect them from hot surfaces. To protect your pets’ paws, always check the temperature of the pavement or walking surface before letting them walk on it.
If a surface is too hot for you to leave your hand on for more than a few seconds, it’s unsafe for your pet to walk on.
Pay careful attention to asphalt and false grass. These can reach temperatures of 160-degrees!

5. Create a Shady Oasis in Your Yard
Want to invest in a baby pool just for your dog? Great! Whether you’re ready to install a wading pool for your pup, or not, at least provide plenty of shade for them to relax in.
Dogs and cats enjoy the mental stimulation of the backyard and a shady refuge will help keep the sun off them. You can even use a beach umbrella!

6. Make Your Dog a Pup-cicle
Create frozen treats to help your dog cool off after long walks. Frozen peanut butter (xylitol-free, of course!) or frozen yogurt work really well. Add some blueberries to make them extra delectable.
For obvious reasons, we don’t have any appetizing cat popsicle recipes. ; )

7. Protect Your Pet from Sunburn
If you are worried about your dog getting sunburned, you can use a pet safe zinc-free sunblock on her nose and thin areas of fur. Zinc-free sunblocks are usually the best. 

8. Never, Ever Leave Your Pet in the Car
Temperatures can quickly escalate to over 110 degrees in your car - and this is just at temperatures are 70 degrees outside. Higher temperatures can quickly soar to 135+ degrees. Cracking windows simply is not sufficient enough to protect your pet. Please leave them at home - they'll be cooler, AND safer.
We hope you create some unbeatable memories with your best friend this summer!
Image credit: vvvita | iStock | Getty Images Plus

Your Rabies Prevention Reminder

Of all the diseases that pets can get, rabies is one of the most frightening. Why does rabies still make us shake in our scrubs after years and year of being in practice? First, there is no cure for rabies. Second, it is mostly carried by wild animals--there is no way to vaccinate or ensure that wild animals are rabies-free. Third, an animal can be infected with rabies and show no symptoms for weeks. Scary, right?

What You Need to Know About Rabies

  • Rabies is a viral disease that attacks the brain and central nervous system of warm-blooded animals. 
  • Humans can contract rabies, but it is rare. 
  • Pets can contract rabies from wild animals by getting bit or scratched. 
  • Raccoons are the most common creature to contract and carry rabies. Mice, skunks, bats, and foxes are also common carriers.
  • Between 400 and 500 domestic pets contract rabies each year.
  • Rabies often has an incubation period of three weeks to two months.

Symptoms of Rabies

While the symptoms can appear gradually, it’s important to recognize them to keep your pet safe. 
  • Behavior changes. An infected pet will often become more aggressive, nervous, or friendly than usual.
  • Rabies causes animals to become extremely sensitive to sounds and lights.
  • Animals with rabies salivate a lot and lose their ability to swallow.

How Can You Protect Your Pet from Contracting Rabies?

You’re probably a bit nervous about this contagious and frightening disease. Don’t worry. There are ways you can protect your pet from becoming a victim of rabies.
  • The most important precaution is to vaccinate your dog or cat and keep their vaccinations current. If your dog or cat gets bit by an infected animal, this vaccination prevents your pet from contracting the virus.
  • If your pet does get bit by a wild animal or a stray dog or cat, bring them in immediately. We can give them a booster to further protect them and monitor their health.
  • Never approach or try to catch a wild animal. Beware of overly friendly wild animals or nocturnal animals that are out during the day.
  • If you come across an injured animal, it may be your first instinct to try to help. This shows you have a big heart, but helping the animal can put you at risk of getting bit. Call Animal Control Services instead.
  • Never let your dog or cat chase wildlife or play outdoors unsupervised. 
  • When it comes to dead wildlife, stay clear. Don’t let your dog or cat eat, sniff, or investigate roadkill or animal carcasses. 
So, as you’re enjoying a picnic with your pup or the sunset with your cat, keep an eye out for wildlife. If you can keep your cat contained in your yard, try your best to do that. To make the most of the summer sun with peace of mind, make sure your pet is up-to-date on her vaccines. Don’t let the worry of rabies ruins your summer fun.
Give us a call and make an appointment for your pet’s rabies vaccination today.
Image credit: JC | Pixabay

After-Hours Emergencies

After Hours Veterinary Care
1014 Dale Street North
St. Paul, MN 55117
(Inside Como Park Animal Hospital just north of downtown St. Paul)
24-hour care for multiple species

Animal Emergency & Referral Center of MN
1163 Helmo Avenue N
Oakdale, MN 55128


Animal Emergency & Referral Center of MN
1542 7th St. W.
St. Paul, MN 55012
(located 2 blocks east of 35E)