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5 Ways to Keep Your Dog's Heart Healthy

While the goal of American Heart Month is to raise awareness about matters of heart health for people, it’s a good time to think about our dogs as well. After all, dogs can have their share of heart issues too!

The term “heart disease” covers a number of conditions. Heart disease can be congenital (that is, present from birth) or acquired (comes along later). There are all kinds of reasons a dog can develop a heart problem – and not all of them are preventable. But, there are some things we can do to give our dogs’ hearts their best chance!

Oral Hygiene
This might sound strange, but one of the more common – and more preventable – causes of a heart disease called mitral valve disease begins in the mouth. A heart valve infection called endocarditis can come from a chronic oral infection that has spread through the blood stream. So taking care of your dog’s mouth can help care for her heart – for some tips on making oral care easy, see this post about dental health.

Healthy Diet and Exercise
Being overweight or obese can contribute to some heart diseases in dogs – just like in humans. Feeding your dog a healthy diet and limiting high-calorie treats can go a long way to helping her stay in optimal shape. Plenty of exercise also helps maintain a healthy body condition, and helps strengthen the heart.

Responsible Breeding
If you are thinking of getting a puppy from a breeder, it is important to look into the types of diseases the breed is known to be prone to, then find a breeder who does everything possible to avoid passing those diseases on to the next generation. For example, Dobermans are known to be prone to a problem called dilated cardiomyopathy, so look for a breeder who has had all dogs tested before entering them into a breeding program.

Heartworm Prevention
Most of us have heard of heartworm disease. It is a serious and potentially fatal disease caused by a parasite that is spread by mosquitoes. Adult heartworms take up residence in the heart and surrounding large blood vessels. They can be up to 14 inches long, can live for up to 5 years, and a dog can have as many as 300 of them when diagnosed. The best treatment for heartworm disease is prevention – a simple, often chewable dose once a month is all it takes.

Wellness Examinations
One of the most important things you can do is take your dog to her veterinarian for regular wellness examinations. As we mentioned above, not all heart diseases are preventable – but they’re definitely much more treatable when detected early. Your veterinarian can listen for a heart murmur, arrhythmia, or other abnormalities and can recommend further tests. And of course, if you notice any coughing, difficulty breathing or other respiratory problems, fainting, or any changes to resting heart rate from your dog's health and wellness data generated by the Voyce band, don’t wait for your next regular check-up – make an appointment with your veterinarian. When detected early, a treatment and management program can be put into place to help your dog live a long and healthy life!