Heart disease in cats: symptoms and treatment

Heart disease in cats and their symptoms often show up late when the disease is well advanced. It is therefore all the more important to pay attention to inconspicuous signs and, if in doubt, to go to the vet. He has the necessary equipment in his practice to be able to diagnose heart failure. The vet listens to the cat's heart and lungs to confirm suspected heart disease - Shutterstock / didesign021

The sooner a heart disease is recognized in cats, the better. Because the different forms of heart failure are unfortunately not curable. However, the symptoms and complaints can be alleviated and the course of the disease slowed down, so that your cat can still live a long and beautiful life despite heart failure.

What heart diseases are there in cats?

A heart disease in the cat can be congenital or acquired later. However, congenital heart defects are very rare - only around ten percent of heart failures exist from birth. Congenital heart diseases include, for example, the so-called persistent ductus arteriosus botalli. The connection between the main artery (aorta) and the pulmonary artery (pulmonary trunk) remains in place, rather than being closed in the first few days of life, as is the case with healthy organisms. As a result, the heart cannot work properly and there is a weak heart. Even more rare are other congenital heart defects, in which, for example, holes in the septum, malformations of the anterior chamber clamp caps or a pericardial diaphragmatic adhesiveness weaken the heart.

The most common heart disease in cats is partially congenital: hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). The Maine Coon in particular often has the predisposition to this form of heart failure, even if responsible breeders do everything to prevent this hereditary disease from spreading further. The Persian cat, the Ragdoll and the British Shorthair (BKH), the American Shorthair and Rex cats also tend to this type of heart failure. With HCM, the muscle of the left ventricle is thickened so that it cannot hold as much blood and pump it further into the body. This heart disease can also affect cats with no genetic predisposition, for example as a result of high blood pressure, renal insufficiency or an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism).

In addition to HCM, there is also dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), in which the ventricles are too large and the heart muscle is too weak. With restrictive cardiomyopathy (RCM), the heart muscle is stiffened and the heart chamber can no longer expand, so that the heart can no longer pump properly. Other heart conditions are the result of a viral infection, malnutrition, or aging.

Heart disease in the cat: symptoms difficult to recognize

The tricky thing about heart disease in cats is that the symptoms only become clear when the heart is already very badly weakened. As a layperson, it is particularly difficult to recognize the often very diffuse signs of heart failure in the house tiger. If your cat belongs to the breeds that tend to HCM (Maine Coon, Persian, Rex, BKH, American Shorthair, Ragdoll), it makes sense to visit the veterinarian two to three times a year so that he can listen to the heart and lungs and can measure blood pressure. For example, changes in the heart murmur and a disturbed heart rhythm can be recognized. A older health check is generally recommended for older animals, regardless of whether they are pedigreed or domestic.

The following symptoms may also indicate heart disease:
● Increased need for sleep / rest
● Shortness of breath to shortness of breath
● Blue mucous membranes
● panting after physical exertion
● Lack of drive and less joy of playing
● nausea

Sometimes heart failure also leads to water retention, especially in the abdomen, since the blood is no longer pumped through the body at a sufficient rate and can clump together. Your cat will then become paralyzed in the hind legs and experience great pain. This is an emergency and you must go to the vet or the veterinary clinic immediately!

Consult a veterinarian about diet for cats with heart failure

The most common form of heart failure in cats is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy - in short: HCM ...

Diagnosis of heart disease in the cat

Because the symptoms of heart failure in cats are so unspecific, it is always advisable to go to the vet with her if she suddenly shows changes in behavior. The signs mentioned may just be signs of aging and your cat is fine. But to make sure, only the doctor can help. In addition to the stethoscope for listening to the heart and lungs and a blood pressure monitor suitable for cats, there are other diagnostic methods available to check the heart health of your pet. For example, he can carry out cardiac ultrasound or an X-ray examination, test the performance of the cat's heart with an EKG (electrocardiogram) and examine the blood.

How can heart failure be treated in cats?

If your cat has a positive result, the vet can give medication for heart failure. So-called ACE inhibitors dilate the vessels so that the heart is relieved. Too fast a heart rate can be reduced with beta blockers and calcium channel blockers help the heart muscle to relax. Medications to lower blood pressure and so-called diuretics are also used, which tackle excessive water retention in the body. The vet may also administer small amounts of blood-thinning agents with acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin), but extreme caution should be taken. An overdose is quickly reached and can be fatal. Therefore, you should never, under any circumstances, give your cat medicines designed for humans.