Home Heart Disease Treatment Vargas: Symptoms of heart disease in cats is different - The Ledger

Vargas: Symptoms of heart disease in cats is different - The Ledger

6 min read


By Mitsie Vargas Ledger correspondent

Monday

Mar 11, 2019 at 5:00 AM

Cats have heart disease just as dogs and humans do but their symptoms are usually very different. Unlike dogs, cats with heart disease do not usually cough, have obvious signs of exercise intolerance or obvious changes in respiration. As a matter of fact, one of the main symptoms of heart disease in cats may just be vomiting. Sadly, a large number of cats with heart disease just suddenly die. It might be that cats and women share unusual tolerance for heart disease symptoms.

One of the most common forms of heart disease that we see in cats in private practice is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). This means the heart muscle has to work so hard that it becomes very thick whereas the lumen or heart chambers become smaller. Imagine trying to pump blood to the whole body yet your chambers are very tiny. This puts constant stress on that heart.

These are possible indications that your cat has HCM: Loss of appetite, lethargy (hard to tell when they sleep a lot), heart murmurs or abnormal lung patterns discovered at the veterinarian examinations. This disease is usually diagnosed in very young or middle-aged cats. They might live an average of three years if treated and diagnosed. The best way to diagnose is to do an ultrasound of the heart and actually measure the heart wall and lumens. The treatment is aimed at preventing blood clots and improving heart function. There is a bright exception to the heart disease gloom outcome: cats that develop heart disease from hyperthyroidism could actually reverse some of the heart damage by controlling the thyroid levels.

There is an organization dedicated to finding a genetic marker and a way to detect HCM in cats. The Winn Feline Foundation has long been supportive of research about HCM in cats. They were instrumental in discovering the MYBPC3 A31P variant in Maine coon cats and the R820W MYBPC3 HCM variant in the Ragdoll breed of cats. These two breeds appear to have a genetic predisposition to developing HCM. The Winn foundation has been working on developing a control group of cats that will have their whole genome sequenced. What does this mean? We can be assured there is a lot of future research to develop tests that could find HCM earlier, so we can save many cat's lives.

In the meantime, keeping your cat in good body condition can help improve their heart function. Obese cats are at risk of heart disease. Using Traditional Chinese Veterinary medicine principles, HCM can be treated by using herbals to strengthen the heart function and acupuncture to nourish the heart and increase stamina. Food remains a very important way to treat any disease. If you have a purebred cat with a familial history of sudden death, you should ask your veterinarian if a preventative heart screening using ultrasound is a good option. There is also a blood test available that can measure the damage to the cardiac tissue. The feline pro-BNP is a non-invasive way to test whether your kitty is affected.

Dr. Mitsie Vargas is at Orchid Springs Animal Hospital in Winter Haven. She can be reached at [email protected]

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