Cats are very resilient creatures, but they are still prone to certain health issues…one of the most common being heart disease. There are multiple types of heart disease, and as a cat-mom or cat-dad it can be devastating to learn that a beloved feline has such a serious health issue. Fortunately, the veterinary community has learned a lot about this problem over the past few years, and it continues to be a major focus of study. There are even
dedicated pet cardiologists—we are lucky enough to have an office right here in Frederick!
To learn more about feline heart disease, we sat down with Dr. Jenny Lynch, one of Kingsbrook Animal Hospital’s amazing veterinarians. Keep reading for some answers to the most commonly asked questions about heart disease in cats!
- What causes heart disease in cats? Is there anything that can prevent it?
Dr. JL: Heart disease in cats can be caused by a taurine deficiency; lack of this amino acid can cause eye problems as well, so it is important to feed a diet with plenty of taurine in it! There are also certain breeds of cats that are genetically predisposed to heart disease, such as Maine Coons and other “fancy” cats.
- The veterinarian heard a heart murmur during my cat’s physical exam. What does this mean?
Dr. JL: It could mean a lot of different things. A heart murmur means that there is increased turbulence of blood flow through the heart. This can sometimes be caused by anemia (a low red blood cell count) or by a systemic issue like hyperthyroidism or hypertension. Even a very high heart rate can cause a murmur. But sometimes a heart murmur is the first indication of heart disease. It is very important to follow up on a heart murmur, because untreated heart disease causes blindness, congestive heart failure, blood clots that may lead to stroke or paralysis, collapse, and eventually loss of the pet’s life.
- What is the next step if my cat is diagnosed with a heart problem?
Dr. JL: The next step is to determine the cause of the heart murmur. Visit the cardiologist for an echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound of the heart. The cardiologist will measure the heart muscle and look at each of the valves of the heart to find the source of the murmur. Bloodwork can help to rule out anemia and hyperthyroidism, and there is even a special blood test that can be done to measure heart muscle damage.
4. My kitty acts completely fine at home. How can I tell if s/he has heart disease?
Dr. JL: Unfortunately, cats tend not to show symptoms of heart disease. The best thing to do is bring cats for regular check-ups at the vet; annually until they are 7 or 8 years old, then
twice a year so we can stay on top of any potential issues. Early detection and intervention can slow the progression of heart disease and will add a few more quality years to a kitty’s life.
5. Where can I find more information about this issue?
Visit the CVCA website, or the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) website–and any of our veterinarians here at Kingsbrook Animal Hospital are happy to answer any questions!