Heart Disease in Cats
Among the most common ailments for cats are cardiac conditions. In the last year, Healthy Paws pet parents have claimed, on average, $2500 – $3000 per feline heart condition. Most frequently this means heart disease, which covers congestive heart failure, strokes, and heart murmurs.
Symptoms of Heart Disease in Cats:
- Coughing or difficulty breathing
- Rapid breathing
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
- Sudden paralysis of one or both hind legs (this may be due to blood clots)
Cats with mild heart disease often will not show any signs, which can be alarming when the disease suddenly progresses, causing heart failure seemingly out of nowhere. If you notice any of these symptoms, take your cat to the vet right away.
To diagnose a heart condition, your vet will go through a physical examination and run diagnostic tests such as an electrocardiogram (ECG) and ultrasound (echocardiogram), as well as X-rays if need be. Blood and urine tests are run to evaluate for thyroid disease and other illnesses that are usually present with heart disease and cardiac complications.
Heart disease and cardiac events more frequently affect male cats; however female cats are not immune. It can also occur at all ages, though seniors are disproportionately affected, and there is a genetic component with certain breeds: most vets cite Maine Coons, Persians, and Ragdolls as having an elevated risk. In addition to heart disease, vets also see diagnoses like heart muscle inflammation (feline myocarditis), complications from blood clots (myocardial infarction), and an “unclassified” cardiomyopathy, which is a catch-all term for a combination of heart problems.
Preventing Heart Disease in Cats:
While heart disease is hereditary and not lifestyle-based, you can take steps to keep your cat healthy.
- Keep up with regular vet visits to increase the change of detecting issues early on.
- If you have a senior pet, call attention to any changes in behavior or health at their senior wellness exam.
- Just like humans, exercise and diet are necessary for a healthy cat.
- Avoid putting your cat into stressful situations that can be taxing on their heart over time.
- If your cat has been diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, avoid extreme heat.
Heart disease is manageable with treatment, and having pet insurance can help offset the costs if the condition doesn’t pre-date your cat’s coverage.
Medications can improve the function of your kitty’s heart; vets will prescribe pills to combat high blood pressure, beta blockers, and a more commonly known OTC solution: aspirin for any possible blood clots. Cats with heart failure may also be suffering from fluid in the lungs, which can be treated with a powerful diuretic.
There will need to be follow-up X-rays and echocardiograms along the way, and regular blood tests will be run to make sure your cat’s body is otherwise working properly.