Heart Disease In Cats

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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 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.

6 comments on “Heart Disease In Cats

Vicky1223 April 18, 2021
My cat, Lala, March, last year was diagnosed with Hyperthyroidism. She was treated with Radioiodine. She never was put in any supplements. This year, also in March, she was diagnosed with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. I was never told by either vet, the specialist, or her regular vet, anything about the probabilities of her developing HCM and CHF, if I would have known I would have asked her regular vet to check her heart too, or I would have taken her to Florida Veterinary Cardiology, which is close to me. Something for everyone to know in case you ever face something like this.
Sunshine76 February 28, 2020
I lost my cat at exactly 1 year old, from cardiomyopathy. I was told that it may have been genetic and there wasn't a cure. Unfortunately, I didn't find out she had this disease until I took her for a second opinion. I started taking her to the vet (at 5 months old) due to her chin (first thought as feline acne or an allergy to food ingredients). Everything we tried, would start to help and then we were right back to square one. After finding out what she had, I do recall her breathing was faster than my other cats, she liked to hide under my chair, she had a heart murmur, and she had pneumonia at only 7 weeks old. After 7 months of treating her symptoms, xrays were taken and fluid was found in her lungs and in her abdomen. The very next day, she started to struggle to breathe and sadly I had to let her go and not let her suffer any longer. It broke my heart that I not only had to say goodbye, but knowing her short life, she had an illness, took medicine most of her life, and suffered at the end. I'm sharing all of this because all of her symptoms in the beginning, no one even suspected they were caused by a heart disease. I don't wish it on anyone or kitten/cat, but I want to share her symptoms to maybe help others, so they can maybe help their cat sooner than I was able to.
    Furballsmom March 27, 2020
    @sunshine76 thank you so much for sharing your story, we appreciate it very much.
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.
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.  
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.

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