There is increasing evidence that many forms of congenital and acquired cardiovascular disease in small animal patients are of familial origin. The large number of familial diseases in domestic purebred animals is thought to be associated with the desire to breed related animals to maintain a specific appearance and the selection of animals from a small group of popular founders (founder effect). Clinicians can use knowledge that a particular trait or disease may be inherited to provide guidance to owners and animal breeders to reduce the frequency of the trait. Even if the molecular cause is not known, identification of a pattern of inheritance and information on clinical screening can be useful for a breeder trying to make breeding decisions. Common forms of inheritance for veterinary diseases include autosomal recessive, autosomal dominant, X-linked recessive, and polygenic. These genetic traits and their possible involvement in cardiac disease in small animals are discussed in this article.