HEART-HEALTHY! in animals until their golden years, but with pets (like humans) living longer and longer lives, we are seeing more agerelated medical conditions such as heart disease emerge. While advanced age is a primary factor for heart disease in pets, puppies and kittens can also have heart problems due to heredity and/or birth defects. The good news is that heart disease can be treated if detected in time. Here are some tips for maintaining a healthy heart in your pet: W E U S U A L LY D O N ’ T H AV E TO W O R R Y A B O U T H E A R T D I S E A S E
• WATCH THEIR WEIGHT.
One-third of our pets are obese, and this puts extra work on their hearts. If your pet is currently obese, then a combination of diet and exercise should be used to get them to a healthy weight. Avoid providing human food as treats. If you need help or are not sure how to get started, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian; they will also be able to check for underlying conditions that may make weight loss more difficult (such as thyroid problems).
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Dr. Madison Cloninger is a veterinarian and the owner of Mooresville Animal Hospital, 2681 Charlotte Highway in Mooresville. For more information, please call 704.664.4087 or visit their website www.mooresvilleanimalhospital.com.
• EXERCISE, EXERCISE, EXERCISE!
Screening for heartworms is essential. Heartworm is a type of blood-borne parasite where the adult worms settle in the heart itself and can lead to heart failure and damage to the heart. Your pets should also be screened for high cholesterol, thyroid problems, and other diseases that can affect your pet’s cardiovascular health (such as diabetes). • KEEP YOUR PET’S TEETH CLEAN.
• PROVIDE A QUALITY DIET.
• GET YOUR PET AN ANNUAL EXAM.
• GET YOUR PET AN ANNUAL BLOODWORK SCREENING.
Consistent, daily exercise is best. Avoid the “weekend warrior” type activities, especially with older pets that may have arthritis. This makes them exert their heart muscles that are not adequately prepared for the level of activity you are asking of them. Most dogs will try to please their owner and go above their comfort level. Exercise time is also a great bonding activity for you to have with your pet … a different kind of heart health for you both! Unless your pet has been truly diagnosed with grain allergies, avoid “grain free” or boutique diets as several of them have been linked to cardiomyopathies. Consider adding a fish oil supplement to your dog’s daily
diet. The anti-inflammatory effects have been shown to be good for heart health.
Tartar and gingivitis are an ongoing source of inflammation and infection that can affect your pet’s cardiovascular health. Most pets over the age of three need a professional dental scaling and polishing every 12-18 months. Sometimes they may need them more frequently or at a younger age. This is in addition to the recommended daily at-home care (brushing or at least a dental chew). Here your vet will check for any signs of early heart disease and recommend medication, if needed, to extend your pet’s longevity and improve quality of life. Senior pets or those with known heart disease may be examined closer to every six months. w
WRITER DR. MADISON CLONINGER
February 2020 Lake Norman Woman Magazine