Heart Problems in Cats
Most cats appear completely poised and unbothered by all and everything. This makes spotting illnesses like heart problems very tricky for us cat parents – do you know the signs of heart problems in cats? Read on to find out what the tell-tale signs are and what steps you can take to stop preventative conditions.
Causes of heart disease
Heart problems in cats can either be congenital (present at birth and can be inherited from the parents) or acquired as adults, usually from middle age onwards and is termed cardiomyopathy. Certain breeds are also prone to heart issues. These breeds include Maine coons, American Shorthairs and Persians. Heart disease can lead to congestive heart failure if left untreated.
Common heart diseases found in cats:
Chronic Valvular Disease – a weakened heart valve which results in blood not being pumped around the body efficiently.
Myocardial Disease – a condition that causes a weakening or thickening of the heart muscle that results in irregular blood flow.
It’s important to keep up with regular wormer treatments as the parasite Heartworm can have a detrimental effect on your cat’s heart. Eggs and larvae are laid in cat’s lungs, which will cause symptoms such as coughing. Once the worms are hatched and fully grown, they will prevent the body from clotting blood correctly, resulting in haemorrhaging, poor circulation or bleeding disorders. Your vet will take stool samples and will suggest a suitable treatment for heartworm in cats.
Symptoms of heart disease:
- Lacking energy or desire to exercise
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Paralysis of the back legs
- Increased breathing rate at rest
- Fainting or collapsing
- Chronic coughing
- Lack of appetite and/or weight loss
Diagnosing heart conditions in cats
It’s very important to have regular veterinary checks so that any potential problems can be picked up as early as possible. If you notice any of the above symptoms, contact your vet to give them a once over. Your vet will check their heart for a murmur, their heart rate and listen to the lungs. Other investigation techniques include an ultrasound of the heart, measuring blood pressure, x-rays of the chest and an ECG. Blood tests will normally be taken to assess the general health of the cat (especially checking for an overactive thyroid gland which can be an underlying cause of heart disease).
How to manage heart problems in cats
Regular veterinary checks are vital and don’t let your cat become overweight. (Unsure of your cat’s body condition? Check out our Cat Weight Chart: So, What Do You Mean By ‘Large Cat’? post to see if a weight management plan will be beneficial for your four-legged friend).
Medication may be given to help reduce the chances of developing congestive heart failure. The drugs can help to relax the heart muscle, slow down the heart rate and decrease the workload of the heart. Your vet may ask you to monitor your cat’s breathing. Some cases will respond to medication but unfortunately, some will progress to the advanced stages despite treatment.
This article is for guidance only and if you have any concerns about your pet you should always seek the advice of a qualified vet.
If in doubt contact your veterinary practice
And always keep your vet's phone number handy - just in case!