What does pet health look like?
Welcome to our ‘We Are Animal Health’ pet owner blog series 2019 – designed to explore a range of topics relevant to both human and animal health.
With National Heart Month underway and Valentine’s Day still on our minds, this month we’re looking at the topic of cardiovascular health.
Studies have shown that there is a proven link between pet ownership (particularly dog ownership) and a healthier heart. Reasons for this can range from the increased exercise that pet owners gain from walking their dogs, through to a reduction of stress in the workplace, to protecting against respiratory infection and lowering blood pressure.
With our pets providing us with so many health benefits of our own, it’s vital we help protect their health and wellbeing at the same time.
Just like older people, older pets – particularly cats and dogs - can suffer from heart disease - approximately 10% of pets that visit vet practices are diagnosed with a heart condition. Symptoms to look out for include coughing (especially at night), a decrease in appetite and tiredness on walks. If you think your pet may be suffering from heart disease, contact your vet who will be able to advise you on the best treatment, diet and exercise.
When it comes to keeping your pet’s heart healthy at any age, an ongoing exercise and fitness routine is key, as is a suitable and balanced diet. For exercise, whether it’s a long walk in the local park or something more structured such as agility training for your dog, it is very important for owners to keep a regular fitness routine for their pet. It is not only beneficial for keeping their heart healthy, but also for keeping them mentally stimulated – and it can do us a power of good too. Exercising a dog provides a powerful stimulus to getting outside into the fresh air, even when the weather might make us want to just curl up in front of Netflix!
Dogs in particular need lots of exercise as part of an active lifestyle to maintain good heart health. With regular exercise their chance of obesity decreases, and in turn, heart disease and mental health issues.
As part of knowing more about the normal state of your dog, with a view to being able to spot when things may be wrong, some vets and experts now recommend finding out and monitoring your dog’s Resting Respiratory Rate. You can do this manually or there are even several handy apps for your phone that can help. If you familiarise yourself with what is normal, then if there are changes, these can act as an alert to talk to your vet, even if your dog seems outwardly healthy. This simple thing can help with both the early detection and monitoring of heart disease, and may help your dog live a longer, active life. For further information, speak to your vet.
With the topic of cardiovascular health so important for pets and owners alike, we spoke to Ann, owner of Poppy, Lolly and Roxy about what she does to keep on top of her pets’ heart health. Read more below.
How do you keep your three dogs’ hearts healthy?
I make sure Poppy, Lolly and Roxy get plenty of exercise every day. Lolly is the youngest of the three, so she is the most energetic and needs the most mental and physical exercise as she grows. That said, I make sure all three get lots of running and playing time in the park nearby and in the garden.
What do think are the most important things to keep on top of Poppy, Lolly and Roxy’s heart health?
I think as well as exercise, another key factor when keeping an eye on their heart health is eating the right food, as well as limiting treats and snacks. I feed my dogs healthy food for each of their different stages of growth, which they love, and only healthy treats. I keep an eye on their weight as they are only small dogs, especially Roxy; making sure they do not get overweight is very important to keeping their hearts healthy.
How does their exercise routine relate to their heart health?
I think their fun exercise routine is very important to keeping their hearts healthy. As well as plenty of walks and runs in the park, they love to play with toys and play catch games; these are also a way to keep them mentally stimulated.
A guide to pet’s heart health
If you would like some more information on how to keep your pet’s heart healthy, read more about the importance of exercise and fitness on our site here. You can also visit your vet to seek independent, expert advice on how best to care for your pet’s heart health.
With the arrival of National Bed Month in March, we will be discussing the importance of sleep for pets in our next blog post. This blog series will include a range of topics common to pets and their owners, including mental health, joint problems, skin conditions and much more. If you’d like to feature in a future blog post, tweet us at @IHeartMyPetUK or drop us a note via Facebook – IheartMyPetUK.