February is American Heart Month, a time for raising awareness about the importance of heart health. Improving heart health is important for our pets too! Although heart disease isn’t always preventable, there are steps you can take to help keep your pet’s heart as healthy as possible.

1. Exercise

Regular exercise is important for keeping your pet at a healthy weight and keeping his heart healthy. Additional weight can place significant stress on a pet’s body, plus overweight pets are at increased risk of developing heart disease. Keeping your pet at an optimal weight can reduce stress on the heart and keep your pet healthier.

Dogs may enjoy going for a walk, playing fetch, or going for a swim. If you have a cat, find some fun and interactive toys that will get your feline moving!

2. Diet

The other key part of helping your pet maintain an optimal weight is a healthy diet. Although there can be many different causes of heart disease, nutritional problems can play a big role in the development of heart conditions.

Making sure your pet is receiving proper nutrition with high-quality ingredients is a good start. And even though your pet may enjoy table scraps and lots of treats, they probably aren’t good for his heart.

Your pet’s nutritional needs will be based on a few different things, like his lifestyle, activity level, and if he has any medical conditions. Your veterinarian or a veterinarian nutritionist can give you specific diet recommendations and suggest how many calories your pet needs.

3. Regular Checkups

Routine checkups and veterinary care are vital for many reasons, including detecting diseases early. When it comes to your pet’s heart, regular checkups give your vet a chance to spot the early warning signs of heart disease. Early detection is essential to managing the disease and hopefully stopping further damage to the heart.

4. Dental Care

More than 85% of dogs and cats older than four years of age have periodontal disease. But what’s this have to do with your pet’s heart? It turns out that dental disease has a strong connection to heart disease. Proper dental care can help keep your pet’s heart healthy! Brushing your pet’s teeth and bringing your pet to the veterinarian for periodic dental cleanings is vital for removing plaque and calculus.

5. Heartworm and Parasite Prevention

Transmitted by mosquitoes, heartworm disease can lead to inflammation of the blood vessels, restricted blood flow, and heart failure in pets. Heartworm causes 13% of heart disease cases. Making sure your pet receives a monthly heartworm preventative can help reduce your pet’s risk of heart disease.

Overall parasite prevention is also important for protecting your pet’s heart. This is because fleas and ticks can carry infectious agents that can have negative effects on a pet’s health and heart.

6. Signs of Heart Disease in Dogs & Cats

Are you familiar with the common signs of heart disease in dogs and cats? Knowing the warning signs could save your pet’s life! If you notice signs of heart disease in your pet, be sure to talk with your veterinarian. Here are some common signs of heart disease in dogs and cats:

  • Difficult breathing
  • Collapsing or fainting
  • Swelling in the abdomen
  • Frequent coughing
  • Lack of energy
  • Reduced appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Reduced ability to exercise
  • Increased heart rate
  • Restless

American Heart Month may take place in February, but keeping your pet’s heart healthy is a year-round responsibility. Following these 6 tips is a great place to start. Your pet—and your pet’s heart—will thank you!