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Heart disease:

The heart is a pump which is better than anything humans have yet designed. It can be regulated by demand and will pump a complex fluid without turbulence or damage to the cells within the fluid. It has no moving parts to wear out and will typically beat about half a billion times in an animal's lifetime.

Causes of heart failure

There are things which can damage the heart, and there are particular degenerative processes which can lead to the pump failing. A few unlucky animals are born with defective hearts which will restrict their life expectancy, though some of them can be corrected surgically.

The commonest preventable cause of heart damage is dental infection. So dental hygiene is not just a cosmetic exercise.

Some breeds of cat and dog are inclined to have narrow heart valves which make it more difficult for blood to be pumped through them and so lead to overstrain of the heart. Some breeds of dog are prone to degeneration of the heart muscle (especially very large breeds) and some have abnormal valve structure.

Whatever the cause, when the heart is unable to pump blood as effectively as the body requires there are several ways in which the body tries to improve its blood supply.

Signs of heart failure

Animals in heart failure will show a variety of symptoms. It is much easier to spot in dogs than cats (and difficult in cage pets too).

Treatment of heart failure

Treatment of heart failure is by means of drugs which will affect the heart or circulation to prevent the body's responses which overload a failing pump. These days we hope to give pets with failing hearts a long period of good quality active life by means of drugs, but the drugs do not mend the problem, only control it, and so must be taken for the rest of the pet's life.

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