Canine heart disease is prevalent. The most common form of canine heart disease is chronic valvular disease, which affects 20 to 40 percent of dogs, and the causes are unknown (Eldredge, Carlson, Carlson, and Giffin, 2007). Another common but older statistic suggests that 11% of all dogs have some form of heart disease (Buchanan, 1992). Ewing (2000) states that 60% of all dogs over 9 years old have developed some form of heart disease, and 90% of dogs over age 13 live with acquired heart disease. At best, even if all statistics don’t agree one thing is clear – canine heart disease is prevalent, and prevalence increases dramatically with age. According to Dr. Marc Kraus, DVM, as quoted in Ewing (2009),“[the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine] treats between four and six canine cardiac patients per day while teaching students to diagnose heart disease” (p.8). Certain breeds are at increased risk. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Miniature and Toy Poodles, Chihuahuas, and many other small or toy breeds are at increased risk for valvular dysfunction (Eldredge, et. al., 2007). Irish Wolfhounds, Boxers, Doberman Pinschers, and other larger breeds are at increased risk for cardiomyopathy (Ewing, 2009). Even given the increased risk in some breeds, it is worth mentioning that heart disease can be found to varying degrees in all dog breeds. Click Here to see a list, published and maintained by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, showing a breakdown of cardiac statistics by breed.
This writer has found that less research is readily available about the prevalence of heart disease in cats. Cats are masters of masking their pain, and often a cat with heart disease will compensate for his deficiency by regulating his activity level accordingly. Sadly, it is common that by the time cats begin to display overt signs of discomfort, they have already entered an advanced stage of heart failure (Eldredge, et. al., 2007). According to Dr. Philip R. Fox, Principal Investigator the study entitled Identifying Risk Factors for Heart Disease in Cats, “Heart disease usually strikes cats in the prime of their lives – around 4 to 6 years of age but as young as 1 year old. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the most common type of feline heart disease and the greatest cause of cardiovascular disease and death” (http://www.morrisanimalfoundation.org/our-research, accessed September 14, 2010). Given that HCM strikes in the prime of life, a need for resources for these cat owners can be easily understood – especially if their pets could potentially have years of life ahead of them given the proper treatment.