Heart disease and heart treatments can be similar in humans and animals. How?
The heart sets the rhythm for our lives. If it gets out of step, this can have serious consequences for the whole body – for humans and animals alike. The good news: Once a heart disease is diagnosed, for both humans and pets, it can usually be well treated and well controlled with regular check-ups and appropriate treatments.
Ba-boom, Ba-boom. The heart is a machine that is always running. An incredibly hard-working and strong organ operating every second, 365 days a year, unceasingly following its beat, tirelessly pumping blood to all body parts to supply oxygen to the cells. More than one billion beats in a lifetime. On and on.
When the heart no longer does what it is supposed to do, the whole system suffers. This is true for all mammals, particularly for such complex beings like humans and pets, especially cats and dogs. For all of them, there is a risk that an unhealthy heart can have a massive impact on the well-being of the organism. And for humans and pets alike, there are simple means of reducing this risk.
The Power of the heart
Infinite facets of heart issues - heart murmur and Coronary Artery Disease
Essentially, there are some fundamental things that commonly can go wrong with the heart of humans, cats and dogs. Either the heart muscle can no longer do its job leading to cardiomyopathy, or the valves inside the heart are affected, leading to troubles in the blood flow. For adult humans, there is an additional common heart issue, called Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). It is caused by plaque buildup in the wall of the arteries leading to a lack of oxygen supply to the heart. Among humans, it is one of the most prevalent kinds of heart diseases. On the other hand, our feline friends are most prone to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which causes the heart's muscular walls to grow thicker.
Humans as well as cats commonly suffer from hypertension. 30 percent of cats over twelve years old are affected by this disease, among humans the overall prevalence globally ranges between 35 percent and 45 percent. Among dogs, Myxomatous Mitral Valve Disease (MMVD) is the leading cardiac problem, affecting almost 10 percent of dogs. It affects the main valve on the left side of the heart, when the two valve leaflets become distorted. This prevents the blood from being pumped correctly and causes turbulence which can be heard through a stethoscope as a heart murmur.
Humans, dogs, and cats suffer from cardiac diseases in different stages of their lives. There are congenital forms of heart diseases, rare in humans but more common in dogs and cats, that are manifest in early life in different ways. In middle age and towards the end of life, heart diseases in all three species can occur either suddenly (like heart attacks in humans) or gradually and insidiously (like heart failure).
How to reduce the risk of heart disease in humans, dogs and cats
What is true in almost all cases, whether dog, cat, or human, is that there is a strong link between heart disease, lifestyle and family history. Whatever the underlying cause of the problem is, the risk of serious disease is increased by too little exercise, obesity, and an unhealthy diet. Avoiding this kind of lifestyle can help to reduce the risk of any heart condition – for humans and pets alike.
Additionally, one major commonality makes living with heart disease particularly dangerous for all three. Many heart conditions remain hidden as there are no or only ambiguous signs until late in the disease. But there is good news: Regular check-ups can help detect these diseases much earlier, and once identified, they can be treated accordingly. Hence doctor’s visits for a human and pet owner – bringing our four-legged friends to their annual check-ups – is crucial.
Similar diagnoses and treatments for humans, dogs and cats
Modern diagnostics can usually detect heart disease at an early stage - even before there are noticeable symptoms and visible impairments. Diagnosis in all three species can be made through procedures such as blood pressure measurement, electrocardiogram, x-rays, or cardiac ultrasounds. The doctor or veterinarian can then make recommendations as to what treatments are appropriate. A healthy diet and enough exercise will be part of the therapy to bring the heart back into its rhythm.
Cardiovascular diseases are just some examples of conditions that commonly occur in humans and animals. Others include renal disease, diabetes, epilepsy, and osteoarthritis. Such diseases don’t distinguish between species and affect them similarly. Hence the importance of our colleagues in Human Pharma and Animal Health working together to leverage our knowledge in the best ways possible.