Cat Heart Attack Symptoms

Heart attack symptoms in cats differ from those seen in humans since they don’t experience myocardial infarctions as a result of an unhealthy lifestyle and a diet high in fat. Knowing the symptoms of a cat heart attack can help a pet owner seek medical care before it's too late.

Fainting and Seizures

Syncope, when cats collapse or faint, is often seen prior to a heart attack. A lack of oxygen, abnormally fast or slow heart rhythms, low blood pressure and blood clots can contribute to fainting or partial fainting. When a cat faints, appears weak or has stiff limbs, he may be exhibiting symptoms that his heart is not pumping blood correctly. Often, when a cat does faint, he's back to normal within a matter of minutes.

Occasionally a cat will have a seizure and will look like he has only fainted. However, when a cat has a seizure he won't return to normal in just a matter of minutes; it could take up to a couple of hours. A seizure can also be accompanied by limbs that twitch or jerk.

Rapid Heart Rate

A rapid heart rate that seems abnormal (tachyarrhythmia), followed by hyperactivity that appears erratic, could be a sign of an impending feline heart attack. The fast heart beat and quick movements can make the cat pant or have shortness of breath in a short amount of time. A cat may also begin to wheeze as if he had asthma.

Many times, tachyarrhythmia is only noticed by a veterinarian. If a vet finds a rapid heart rate in a cat, he may prescribe drugs for the arrhythmia (abnormal heart beat) to help reduce the chances of the cat having a heart attack.

Slow Heart Rhythm

Another form of arrhythmia is bradyarrhythmia, meaning the heart has a slow heart rhythm that's not normal. A slow heart can negatively affect a cat's health in several ways, is often a sign of an upcoming heart attack and is often treated with a pacemaker. Again, a slow heart rhythm is a symptom that may only be noticeable to a vet.

Symptoms a Veterinarian Will See

When a veterinarian suspects a cat may be having a heart attack, he'll collect images of the heart with an x-ray or an ultrasound machine to obtain an echocardiogram that will show if the muscles of the heart are thin, the presence of blood clots or other blockages in the heart.

Other instruments a vet will have include a stethoscope and an electrocardiogram to listen to and monitor the cat's heart and pericardium, which covers the heart. Blood samples are also drawn to check for an underlying cause to the cat's heart condition.

When a cat has a heart attack, there's usually little warning that it will happen. However, there may be signs a cat will display that are symptoms of an upcoming heart event that will help pet owners know he needs immediate veterinary help.