Cardiac disease is a broad term to dscribe any disease condition affecting the heart. Many different conditions exist, ranging from mild to severe. Cardiac disease can be congenital meaning your pet was born with the condition, or acquired meaning they develop the condition later in life.
The signs seen with cardiac disease are the same for most conditions because they are the result of the heart not performing as well as it should. Often your veterinarian will diagnose a problem with your pets heart because they have heard either a change in rhythm, or a 'heart murmur' when listening to the heart with a stethoscope. A heart murmur is when the heart sounds has changed from its usual "da-dum, da-dum" to more of a "whoosh whoosh". The vet may also point out other signs to you such as bluish coloring of the gum or swelling especially of the abdomen.
As the different conditions of the heart all appear very similar, it is important to diagnose the actual problem in your pet. To do this we will make a booking to admit your pet for a day and perform some or all the following tests; radiographs (x-rays), ultrasound examination, electrocardiogram tracing (E.C.G), and blood tests. Usually a general anesthetic is not required, so that the pet lies still for the various tests.
Some conditions causing cardiac disease can be treated surgically, but most are treated medically. Medical treatment is life long and aim to reduce the work load on the heart and improve your pet's quality of life. Many conditions will progress so monitoring both at home and at the clinic will be needed to ensure optimal treatment is maintained. This monitoring involves phyical examinations and some times requires tests to be repeated periodically.