Assessing Heart Disease in our Pets

April 2019 Heart Care Promotion

Heart disease is hard to detect in cats and dogs. For April 2019, we are offering a promotion of $15 off the cardiopet test to help owners evaluate heart disease in their cats and dogs. Please read on to learn more about heart disease in cats and dogs.

Have you ever been told your cat or dog has a heart murmur? What does that mean and what should you do about it? These are common questions, and veterinary medicine continues to evolve with our care recommendations.

First, what is a murmur?

The heart is a muscle that receives and sends out blood through the whole body. A murmur occurs when there is abnormal blood flow through the heart. Some murmurs are benign, such as those caused by stress or high athleticism (primarily in dogs), whereas others can be caused by anemia (low red blood cell counts), an overactive thyroid, or structural heart disease.

How do we determine if a murmur is a cause for concern?

The gold standard to evaluate a heart’s performance includes an echocardiogram (sonogram of the heart), an EKG, as well as a visit to a veterinary cardiologist. Since a referral to a veterinary cardiologist is not always feasible, veterinarians rely on other tests to evaluate heart function, namely chest x-rays, blood pressure assessment, an EKG, as well as cardiac biomarkers. Cardiac biomarkers are blood values that are produced by the heart when it is stressed (our laboratory offers the Cardiopet biomarker test for both cats and dogs).

Feline Heart Disease

Heart disease in cats can be very challenging to detect, especially since physical exam findings can be misleading. A 2015 study of adult cats found that 40% of healthy cats have murmurs, but the majority of these murmurs were benign. In addition, the study found that 20% of cats without murmurs have heart disease.

Heart disease in cats is very serious and the best chance of managing it depends on an early diagnosis. Up until now, usually by the time we discovered the heart disease, it was too late to do anything. Thankfully, the feline Cardiopet biomarker has been found to be very good at identifying heart disease in cats, regardless of whether they are showing symptoms or not and is recommended annually for adult cats.

Canine Heart Disease

The most common heart disease in dogs is degenerative mitral valve disease. It is estimated that >60% of older small breed dogs have mitral valve disease and an associated heart murmur. Luckily, dogs typically have a relatively long asymptomatic phase before cardiac therapy is recommended or required. However, the combination of the canine Cardiopet biomarker and chest x-rays are recommended annually in dogs with heart murmurs to determine the severity of heart disease.


  1. Cardiomyopathy prevalence in 780 apparently healthy cats in rehoming centers. J Vet Cardiology. December 2015
  2. Arterial Thromboembolism in 250 cats in General Practice. J Vet Internal Medicine. January 2014
  3. Multi-centered investigation of point-of-care NT-proBNP ELISA assay to detect moderate to severe occult feline heart disease in cats referred for cardiac evaluation. J Vet Cardiology, 2014
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