Getting to Know Your Pet’s Heart

Jun 03, 2016

HeartLub dub, lub dub, lub dub…
Do you know what that is? That’s the sound of me…your pet’s heart! And actually your heart too.

I am part of the cardiovascular system which includes me and all of the blood vessels in the body. Together, we form a circuit, or a loop, through which the blood travels around and around (but it never gets dizzy!).

Here’s How It Works

Oxygenated or ‘red” blood travels from the left side of the heart via arteries to the body to deliver oxygen and nutrients →veins as ‘blue blood’ (less oxygen) return blood from the body→  right side of the heart → lungs to pick up oxygen (becomes “red blood” again) → back to left side of the heart. And all of that happens without you or your pet feeling a thing.

Look What I’m Made Of

  • I’m a special type of muscle
    --Sometimes, the muscle can become thickened. This is the most common type of heart disease in cats.
  • I’m made up of 4 chambers which hold blood
  • The top chambers are reservoir chambers called the atria
  • The bottom chamber, the main pumping chambers are called the ventricles
    --There are both an atrium and a ventricle on the right and left side, making up the 4 chambers
  • I have an electrical system that controls how fast I beat and coordinates my muscle contractions
  • The atrium and ventricle are separated by one-way valves to ensure blood is moving in a forward direction
    --Sometimes these valves will become leaky and cause blood to leak backwards. This can cause me to become enlarged and get sick. This is one of the most common diseases in dogs.

So What Exactly Do I Do All Day?

I don’t just sit around looking pretty! I’m always hard at work.

  • I pump blood to the lungs to pick up oxygen, to become ‘red’ blood
  • I pump blood around the body to deliver oxygen and nutrients and take away the waste, this is how oxygenated “red blood” becomes deoxygenated “blue blood”
  • I help to maintain a normal blood pressure

When I Get Sick

The term heart failure means that I’m not pumping an adequate amount of blood. This leads to a shortage of oxygen being delivered to the body.

The term congestive heart failure means that there is fluid buildup in the lungs, around the lungs or in the belly

When these things happen, veterinarians will put pets on medication to try and help them live longer. You just can’t live without me.

Heart disease means there is an abnormal change in me. Not all pets with disease will develop heart failure. Failure comes later as the disease progresses.

Common Signs of Heart Disease

  • Coughing
  • Excessive panting, wheezing or trouble breathing
  • Restlessness, unable to get comfortable
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Collapse or fainting

It’s All About Me

To help figure out if I’m sick and the reason your pet isn’t feeling well, your veterinarian may use the following tests:

  • Chest radiographs (x-rays) - these look at my general size and shape and are best for evaluating the lungs
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) - this test evaluates my electrical activity
  • Echocardiogram - this is an ultrasound of me. It allows doctors to use sound waves to watch me move and track how blood is flowing through me.

Concerned about your pet’s health? Talk to your pet’s veterinarian or call Red Bank Veterinary Hospital at (732) 747-3636 for an appointment.