Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in cats
Although often everything seems fine from the outside, something internal may be happening to your cat. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is one of those silent diseases that cats unfortunately are very likely to develop. Some breeds of cats are more likely to develop this disease than others, but it is still something that all cat owners should be aware of. Knowing which signs to look for can help this problem not be discovered.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, often abbreviated as HCM, is a condition of the heart that causes thickening of the walls, especially the left ventricle.–It makes it hard for the heart to work properly. The heart is a muscle with chambers inside it that draw blood. If the heart walls become too thick, he will not be able to pump blood properly. The left ventricle is one of the four chambers of the heart, but is specifically responsible for pumping blood through the body. If it can not do its job, the rest of the body does not get proper blood flow.
Blood can also back up and clots can form if the heart is not functioning properly. In HCM, the heart tries to beat faster to compensate for the lack of normal blood flow. In doing so, it depletes the body of oxygen, which in turn kills the heart cells. When the cells die, heart function decreases even more and abnormal heartbeats occur. Heart failure is also a common phenomenon in cats that have HCM, in part because of blood backing.––
Because HCM happens internally, it often comes as a surprise to cat owners. Heart problems may not be clear until the cat has problems, so it’s important to know why to be careful.
A good physical examination will include listening, where your doctor will listen to your cat’s heart with a stethoscope. Your veterinarian will look for a normal heart rate, murmur or arrhythmia. If an arrhythmia or murmur is heard, it may be an indication of heart disease such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. An x-ray and ultrasound of the heart, called an echocardiogram, may be recommended to further evaluate your cat’s heart.–These tests will not solve a heart problem, but they can give your veterinarian a diagnosis and therefore a possible treatment plan.
You can usually detect strenuous breathing by watching your cat breathe fast. A cat that has difficulty breathing may also have audible beeps, its abdomen rising and falling instead of the chest, a gaping mouth or heavy panting and pale or blue gums. If your cat is unable to move oxygen through his lungs, he will have difficulty breathing and may become weak or collapse.
Sudden paralysis of the hind limbs is a frightening symptom that can also be a result of HCM.–If a clot comes out of the heart and blocks blood flow to the hind limbs, your cat appears to be paralyzed. This can happen quite suddenly, and due to the lack of blood flow, the leg will feel cold to the touch. Sudden death can also occur due to clots, but this is rare.
- Laborious breathing
- Breathing with the mouth open
- Light or blue gums
- Irregular heartbeats
- Hind limb paralysis
- A sudden death
Some breeds of cats are more likely to develop hypertrophic cardiomyopathy than others. Maine Coon, Ragdolls, Persians, Sphynx, Chartreux and British Shorthair breeds have been shown to have a genetic predisposition to HCM and are therefore more likely to develop it.–It is not known why these breeds are more likely to receive HCM than others. But, if you have one of these cats, it is especially important to closely monitor your cat’s heart health so that you can catch HCM early.
Other breeds of cats can also develop hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, but the cause is still unknown. Some of the components of nutrition and obesity may play a role in heart disease in cats, but there is no definitive link between hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and a specific cause.
Because hypertrophic cardiomyopathy cannot be cured, the goal of treatment is to maintain a normal heart rate, prevent blood clots from forming inside your cat and make it easier for your cat to breathe. Although this is more of a management plan than a treatment plan, it is the best option until further healing or research is done.
- diet: Taurine and L-carnitine are amino acids most commonly recommended as supplements for cats with heart disease. These ingredients are often added to pet food and are also produced naturally within the cat’s body. Studies have shown that they may be helpful in supporting a healthy heart, but they are not treatments for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, but only general heart health. Omega 3 fatty acids and special diets designed for cats with heart disease may also be helpful in supporting cats with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
- Medicines: There are several medications that can be prescribed to help manage HCM symptoms. Some medications may be injected, applied topically or given in pill form. Various medications will help relieve breathing, aid heart function, stabilize blood pressure, and treat other potential symptoms of HCM.
- Activity levelA: Your veterinarian may recommend keeping your cat’s activity level low to reduce the amount of work his heart needs to do.
Because there is no clear known cause, there is no concrete way to know if you are preventing hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Providing proper nutrition to support your heart and ensuring your cat receives an annual veterinarian examination will help maintain your cat’s health and hopefully reduce the likelihood of disease, including hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
If hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is suspected, your cat will most likely have blood tests, x-rays, a blood pressure test and an echocardiogram to fully assess your cat’s health. Based on the findings of these tests, your veterinarian will recommend a treatment plan that will help reduce symptoms or delay disease progression.
If you suspect your pet is sick, call your veterinarian immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as he has examined your pet, knows the pet’s health history and can give the best recommendations for your pet.