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Heart Disease in Cats

Cat heart disease is a severe medical condition requiring prompt veterinary care. Left untreated, heart conditions that affect our feline companions can even lead to congestive heart failure. Today, our  Perry vets list types, symptoms, and treatments for heart disease in cats.  

What causes heart disease in cats?

To answer this question, there are a couple of contributing factors your vet will likely need to investigate. One is the type of heart disease a cat has, and the other is whether your cat may have high blood pressure. 

Types of Heart Disease in Cats

Adult-onset hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the most common type of heart disease found in cats. This condition is caused by the enlargement or thickening of the walls of your feline friend's heart, and interferes with the pumping action of the heart. 

The walls may become so thick that the ventricle chamber is reduced in size. Therefore, only a small amount of blood can be pumped with each contraction. 

In cats, heart disease may either be congenital or acquired during their lifetime. 

  • Congenital heart disease in cats is present at birth and can be inherited from family members. 
  • When acquired, heart disease is referred to as adult-onset heart disease because it occurs more often in cats that are middle-aged or older due to wear and tear on their heart. Infection or injury of your cat's heart can also lead to this type of heart disease. 

In some circumstances, adult-onset heart disease develops as a secondary issue in cats, with the primary health problem originating in another part of their body like their thyroid. 

High Blood Pressure in Cats & Dogs 

Many pet parents wonder if there is a correlation between high blood pressure and heart disease in dogs and cats.

When a cat's arteries are too narrow or too "stiff", the heart muscle (specifically the left ventricle) must work harder. High blood pressure in pets is typically the result of another internal disease process such as diabetes mellitus, kidney disease, Cushing's disease, or hyperthyroidism. 

As the left ventricle pumps harder, a cat's heart muscle begins to stiffen and lose its functionality due to working too hard. Hypertension can also result in a dysfunctional mitral and/or aortic valve. 

If the dysfunction in valve and/or muscle becomes severe, pressure within the heart and the veins that drain into the heart becomes too high, forcing fluid out of the circulation and into surrounding tissues, including the lungs. This is called congestive heart failure, which we'll discuss later in this article. 

What are the signs of heart disease in cats?

It can be quite difficult to detect heart disease early in cats, since many kitties don't show any clinical symptoms until the disease progresses to an advanced stage, at which point cats tend to withdraw from their owners or other pets in the house and become more lethargic. 

Not all cats will develop all of these signs of heart disease, and many cats display multiple of the following symptoms:

  • Weight loss 
  • Difficulty with or discontinuing exercise 
  • Sudden hind leg paralysis 
  • Inactivity or lethargy
  • Weight loss 
  • Poor appetite 
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Regularly elevated heart rate
  • Increased respiratory rate and effort 
  • Fainting/collapse

How is heart disease treated in cats?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for heart disease like hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in cats. It is impossible to reverse the damage to the structure of their heart muscle. However, in some cases, where your feline friend's heart disease is a secondary condition caused by some other treatable condition, symptoms may dissipate once the primary condition has been addressed. 

At Westmoreland & Slappey Animal Hospital, we have access to a network of veterinary specialists across the country. Your primary veterinarian may refer you to a board-certified veterinary cardiologist for diagnosis and treatment of your cat's heart condition.  

Your veterinarian will likely prescribe your act with appropriate medications to help to reduce their risk of congestive heart failure. These medications may do anything from slowing their heartrate and relaxing the muscles of their heart to decreasing the workload of your cat's heart. Your cat will also often be prescribed diuretics in order to reduce the overflow of fluids.

In addition to medication, other types of treatment may be recommended by our cardiologist including a low-sodium diet, oxygen therapy, taurine supplementation, or surgical procedures to remove excess fluid buildup from the chest cavity or abdomen.

Is heart disease painful for cats? 

There is a condition that may develop in some cats with heart disease that can be painful and even paralyzing called addle thrombus. This is caused when a blood clot begins to develop in a cat's heart and moves out of the aorta, blocking blood flow to your cat's hind legs. If you notice sudden paralysis in your cat's hind legs , contact your vet and seek emergency care immediately.

What is the life expectancy of cats with heart disease? 

Heart disease in cats can severely shorten their life expectancy. Cats suffering from structural heart disease will generally develop recurring signs of congestive heart failure over time and require medical attention for life. In general, the average prognosis for a cat that has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure is 6 to 12 months of life. 

Symptoms of congestive heart failure include rapid breathing or difficulty breathing, low energy level, coughing, and fainting. 

Cats diagnosed with congestive heart failure will need frequent veterinary follow-up visits, and additional tests may be performed to monitor their heart health. 

How can early onset symptoms of heart disease be identified? 

The most important thing to remember when it comes to monitoring your feline companion's heart health is that veterinarians can often identify heart disease before symptoms occur. Taking your cat to the vet every year for a comprehensive physical examination and blood testing are the most effective ways to screen your pet for diseases affecting their heart. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your cat displaying concerning symptoms of an illness or heart-related condition? Contact our Perry vets today to book an exam for your feline friend.

New Patients Welcome

Looking for quality veterinary care in a warm and friendly atmosphere? Westmoreland & Slappey Animal Hospital in Perry, GA is accepting new patients! Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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