OVRS_iStock_000003578356_LargeHeart problems are serious business, no matter what your species. And cats are no exception. Unfortunately, heart disease in cats can be very difficult to detect. That’s where your family veterinarian may recommend a consultation with one of the veterinary cardiologists at OVRS to help in diagnosing, treating and managing your cat’s heart condition. Learn what every cat owner should know about their feline friend’s cardiovascular health.

Types of Heart Disease in Cats

Cats are prone to a few different types of heart problems. These problems vary a little bit by age and breed, but any cat can be affected by them during his or her lifetime. Some of the more common heart problems seen in cats include:

Congenital heart defects – A congenital defect is something a pet is born with and is often a mistake in development. These can include holes in the heart and faulty heart valves. Prognosis depends on the type and severity of the problem.

Cardiomyopathy – A cardiomyopathy is a problem related to the actual muscle of the heart. There are a few types of cardiomyopathies, and some appear to be genetic. If caught early there are treatments depending on the disease.

Heartworm disease – We don’t hear as much about heartworm disease in cats as we do dogs, but it is a very real problem. Treatment for cats is limited and costly.  There are several effective preventatives available, please speak to your family veterinarian about them.

Signs of Heart Problems in Cats

Cats are masters of hiding illness, and heart problems are no exception. It is important to have regular wellness visits with your veterinarian which would include listening for a heart murmur.  Unfortunately, in some cases there can still be heart problems in cases where no murmur is heard. Another serious consequence of heart disease in cats is the formation of blood clots which often lodge in the rear limbs, causing a very painful condition.

Early detection of the problem is key to preventing this. Be sure to keep an eye out for these subtle signs and bring them to your veterinarian’s attention if you notice them in your cat:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Depression or change in personality
  • Decreased  appetite
  • Change in weight, particularly loss
  • Bloated abdomen
  • Collapse or fainting episodes
  • Vomiting (in some instances)
  • Hiding

Detecting Feline Heart Disease

Luckily, we have good ways to detect feline heart problems using modern veterinary medicine. Routine wellness visits to your veterinarian are an important part of finding all sorts of problems, including those that are heart-related.

Pets who are showing signs of heart problems, or those who are at risk of one (Maine Coons, Persians, Ragdolls, those with relatives that had heart problems), should also be tested. There are a few options available:

Blood testing for heart problems – The BNP blood test is a blood test that screens for a protein that rises in the bloodstream when heart damage has occurred. This test can result in false positives, but is an economical, non-invasive means of screening an at-risk pet.

Echocardiogram – The only definitive way of diagnosing a heart problem is to have an echocardiogram, or ultrasound of the heart, performed. This allows us to look at each valve and chamber of the heart in real time. Your veterinarian is able to refer you to the cardiologists at Oakland Veterinary Referral Services for this testing. Learn more about what to expect and what information to bring if you are referred to a veterinary cardiologist.

Heart problems in cats can be very serious, but just as with any other disease, early detection and treatment can make a big difference. Be sure to pay close attention to your cat, keep his or her wellness appointments, and discuss with your veterinarian if you think he or she may be showing symptoms or be at increased risk.