Heart Disease In Cats

Heart disease – it’s a silent threat. Symptoms don’t show early on so it’s hard to know there’s a problem until it’s advanced. This is especially the case with relatively sedentary indoors-only cats where there is rarely any significant acceleration of the pulse. While any cat can have it, heart disease has been linked to breeds like the Maine Coon, Bengal, Persian, and Ragdolls. Orange male cats are also prone to heart problems.

Heart disease is not limited to older cats. Forum member Queenofcats81 says her cat Ollie was diagnosed with an enlarged heart when he was only four years old. In fact, heart disease can be congenital and present at the time of birth. According to The Cornell Book of Cats, Siamese cats seem more prone to congenital heart defects.

Heart Disease in Cats: The Symptoms

Here are the symptoms to watch for:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Weakness
  • Labored breathing, more from the stomach than the chest area
  • Coughing

Kmd’s nine year old tuxedo cat, Elmo, was diagnosed with a heart murmur. He was fine for a year but then showed a lack of interest in food and had trouble breathing. The veterinarian prescribed two kinds of medication (combined in capsule form and given with the help of a pill popper), which helped for almost eight months.

“Heart murmurs can come and go but you should keep checking and do an ultrasound,” says Dr. Cindy Houlihan, owner of The Cat Practice in Birmingham, Michigan. “Also, larger male cats are more likely to have heart disease, especially purebreds.”

Threecatnight’s cat was very young – only six months old – when his vet discovered a heart murmur and cardiomyopathy. A twice-daily vitamin, Lasix and heart medications helped him live to the age of seven, at least four years longer than his original prognosis.

Jade, who lives with cbuehner, was found to have a heart murmur at age three. She was treated and remained in good health until she had a heart attack at age fourteen. A prescription of Furosemide has kept Jade going to age sixteen, with no further problems.

Heart murmurs are not the only disease cats get. DrBobCat’s kitty suffered an aortic thromboembolism which is a blood clot in the aorta. “My cat suddenly started screaming and then dragging her rear legs. She had not been diagnosed with any heart problems.” Even with morphine, the cat was still in pain and paralyzed. Since these clots tend to recur, a long term prognosis was poor. Due to the extreme pain, the cat was euthanized.

Irregular heartbeats are something that Flaco has lived with all his life. SweetSally2 says her vet gives Flaco a clean bill of health each year and at age fourteen, he’s doing fine.

“Prevention and early diagnosis are paramount,” says Dr. Houlihan. “Regular veterinary visits, heart screening, and for breeders, genetic testing to see if the cat is a carrier for heart-related problems, can help.”

Medication can help reduce the workload on the heart by improving the oxygenation of the blood. Specific treatment protocols vary according to the severity and type of heart disease. If a heart disease is caught early, medication can help cats live longer, more comfortably.

Comments? Leave them using the form below. Questions about your cat? Post them in the cat forums.

The forums are the only place where you can get quick answers to your cat-related questions. Please do not use the comments section to ask questions about your cat.

3 comments on “Heart Disease In Cats

linda rae March 27, 2013
I hope every cat lover and owner reads this article and acts upon its information. Make sure you are doing everything for your kitty to help keep it's heart working even if it takes medication. Also be aware kitties are prone to kidney problems so it is essential kitties get their annual check ups to catch life altering diseases early and while treatable to ensure a longer and happier and healthier lifetime to share with you. I do not know if dogs can suffer from the same thromboembolisms, but can have heart problems. Get your dog to the vet for its annual checkups also.
nurseangel May 15, 2015
Thank you for the article.  DH and I were completely blindsided when we took Daisy to the vet for what we thought was an upper respiratory infection and it turned out that she has congestive heart failure.  
mservant May 22, 2015
Great article and one all cat companions should read.   One of my previous cats developed high blood pressure as she aged. Just as silent as it is with humans she had significantly lost her sight and had some kidney damage by the time I thought something was up and took her to the vet.   Her kidney function improved with medication but her sight was gone.   It all happened within 6 months of her annual vet check.

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