Heart disease is a very serious medical condition in cats that requires veterinary care as soon as possible. If they are left untreated, heart conditions affecting our feline friends may even lead to congestive heart failure. Here, our Phoenix cardiologist and veterinary team share some of the types, treatments and symptoms for heart disease in cats.
What are the types of heart disease in cats?
The most common kind of heart disease found in cats is adult-onset hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition caused by the enlargement or thickening of the walls of your kitty's heart.
In cats, heart disease may either be congenital or acquired throughout their life.
- Congenital heart disease in cats is present at their birth and can be inherited from family members.
- Heart disease, when acquired, is referred to as adult-onset heart disease. It's so-named because it occurs more often in middle-aged cats or older from wear and tear on their heart. It may also be the result of injury or infection to your cat's heart.
In some instances, adult-onset heart disease develops as a secondary issue in your cat, while the primary health problem being traced back to another part of their body like their thyroid.
What are the symptoms of heart disease in cats?
The early appearance of this disease can actually be quite difficult to identify in cats. Many cats don't display any clinical signs until the disease reaches an advanced stage, at which point cats will tend to become more lethargic or withdrawn from their owners or other pets in the house.
Not all cats will develop all of the following symptoms of heart disease and many cats will exhibit more than one of these.
- Poor appetite
- Weight loss
- Lethargy or inactivity
- Sudden hind leg paralysis
- Regularly elevated heart rate
- Difficulty with or discontinuing exercise
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Increased respiratory rate and effort
How is heart disease treated in cats?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for heart disease like hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in cats. The damage caused to the structure of their heart muscle cannot be reversed. In some cases, however, where your feline friend's heart disease is a secondary condition caused by another, treatable, condition, their symptoms may be alleviated once their primary condition has been addressed.
Your veterinarian will be able to prescribe your act will different kinds of medication to help to reduce their risk of congestive heart failure. These medications may fo 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 the heart of a cat and moves out of the aorta, blocking the flow of blood to your cat's hind legs. If you notice sudden paralysis in your cat's hind legs , contact your vet and seek emergency care as soon as possible.
What is the life expectancy of cats with heart disease?
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.
Cats that have been diagnosed with congestive heart failure will need frequent veterinary follow-up visits and additional tests may be performed in order to monitor the cat's 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 are often able to identify heart disease before symptoms ever occur in the first place. Taking your cat to the vet every year for a comprehensive physical exmaination and blood testing are the most effective ways to screen your pet for diseases affecting their heart.