Pet Hearts Can Need Healing, Too

UC Davis Offers Expertise on Heart Disease in Companion Animals

Quick Summary

  • Understanding pet health helps in understanding human health
  • Cats and dogs make up most of heart patients
  • UC Davis also examines horses, birds, reptiles, small mammals and zoo animals

It’s not just humans who can suffer from heart disease — it affects our pets, too. And understanding disease in companion animals might help us treat human diseases.

Recognized as a pioneer in veterinary cardiology, the University of California, Davis, is developing and testing a number of techniques now widely used in clinics and training generations of residents in the field.

While cats and dogs make up most of the heart patients seen at UC Davis, the hospital also regularly examines horses, birds, reptiles, small mammals and zoo animals.


Newfoundland dogs are beloved for their sweet nature and massive, furry size, but the breed is prone to an inherited heart disease, subvalvular aortic stenosis, or SAS, which also affects golden retrievers and children. UC Davis researchers led by veterinary cardiologist Joshua Stern have identified one genetic mutation responsible for SAS in dogs. They hope that this knowledge could speed development of treatments in dogs and humans, and help Newfoundland breeders eliminate the disease. They continue to study the genetics of multiple inherited heart diseases in dogs and cats. Related story, with video, Gene Mutation for Heart Disease in Newfoundland Dogs Identified.

Joshua Stern, School of Veterinary Medicine, (530) 752-2475,


UC Davis researcher Mark Kittleson helped discover a genetic mutation leading to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in Maine coon and ragdoll cats. It’s the most common cause of heart disease in domestic cats, and also occurs in about one out of every 500 humans — in some notable cases, causing sudden death in young athletes. Kittleson also co-discovered that a diet deficient in the amino acid taurine causes another form of feline heart disease, dilated cardiomyopathy. 

Mark Kittleson, School of Veterinary Medicine, UC Davis, (530) 752-7294,

Media Resources

Karen Nikos-Rose, News and Media Relations, 530-219-5472,

Andy Fell, News and Media Relations, 530-752-4533,

Primary Category

Secondary Categories

Science & Technology