Customers with plans underwritten by United States Fire Insurance Company and administered by C&F Insurance Agency, please click here to access your plan.

Abnormal Heart Rate

Abnormal Heart Rate

A condition in which the heart beats in a abnormal or irregular way - either too slow, too fast, or it may skip a beat. Pets may experience physical weaknesses when the pauses between the beats are too long. Besides, although uncommon, the pet may lose consciousness. Consult a veterinarian for advice and possible treatments.

How to Recognize

Recognizing a heart rate that is not normal can be difficult if a dog or cat is not exhibiting symptoms. When an animal is showing signs of heart problems, you may notice open-mouthed breathing. This is not the same as panting. Instead, your dog or cat will appear relaxed while breathing through its mouth. You may also notice that your dog or cat is unable to participate in exercise or play. When the heart rate is abnormal, dogs and cats tire more quickly. This can prevent them from being as active as they once were. You may also notice a reluctance to eat or drink when the cause a rapid or too-slow heartbeat is caused by an underlying illness.

Causes of Abnormal Heart Rate

Like humans, animals can experience accelerated heart rates when they are overly excited or stressed. Heart murmur in dogs is a cause of an abnormal rate, as is heart murmur in cats. Heart rates can also increase or decrease with an underlying illness.


If you suspect that your dog or cat has an issue with its heart, it is important to see your veterinarian as soon as possible. Your veterinarian will listen to your animal's heart with a stethoscope in an attempt to diagnose the condition. A heart murmur in dogs and a heart murmur in cats are very easy to hear through this instrument. If your veterinarian suspects an abnormally-sized heart, he may recommend radiographs of the chest. Heart murmurs can be diagnosed using an ultrasound machine. In other cases, an electrocardiogram may be ordered for your animal. Most veterinarians in general practice are well-versed in heart disease, but some may be uncomfortable diagnosing your pet. These vets may refer you to veterinary cardiac specialist for further testing and diagnosis.

Similar Symptoms

Symptoms similar to those seen in dogs and cats with heart problems are heavy or rapid breathing, decreased activity, and inappetence. Many symptoms can mimic those seen in heart disease which is why a proper diagnosis is important.

Possible Conditions

There are a variety of conditions that can cause heart rates to be abnormal. The most common condition is a heart murmur. These murmurs may be present at birth or develop over time. Heart murmur in dogs and heart murmur in cats are not necessarily an illness in themselves. Heart murmurs can be caused by heartworm disease, an illness located elsewhere in the body, or innocent puppy murmurs that disappear over time. In some breeds of dog, like boxers, cardiomyopathy is an inherited condition that can cause abnormal heart rates.

Treatment for Abnormal Heart Rate

Treatment of abnormal heart rates is determined by the underlying condition. If the problem lies within the structure of the heart, your veterinarian may prescribe medication for your pet. Furosemide and benazepril are two of the most commonly prescribed heart drugs. Your veterinarian may advise you to limit your pet’s activity. When a pet is active, the heart muscle is forced to work harder. If your animal has a weakened heart, physical exertion can be dangerous. No matter what your veterinarian prescribes, follow his recommendations. Treatment options for abnormal heart rates can vary from pet to pet, but heart disease can be fatal. With proper treatment your pet can live as normal a life as possible.

Pet Insurance

When adding a dog or cat to your family you want to make sure your pet is happy, healthy and protected. During its lifetime your pet is exposed to many illnesses and diseases and some breeds are affected by a congenital disease which is a condition existing at birth. At these moments when your pet is ill or maybe needs surgery, you want to be protected for the unexpected and high veterinarian costs.

Get a Free Pet Insurance Quote