Cat Heart Disease Diagnosis

Cat heart disease is a common affliction among feline pets. This condition can occur at any age to any feline breed. A cat with heart disease may not show any symptoms until the condition is well advanced. This is why keeping a cat’s routine check-ups with his veterinarian is important; a cat’s heart disease can be diagnosed in its early stages.

Cat Heart Disease and Symptoms

When a cat has heart disease, the heart muscle gets too big and its chambers are too small. This causes a smaller space for blood to occupy the heart, making it harder for blood to flow throughout a cat’s body.

A cat owner may notice something is not quite right with her cat when he is playing or running around and suddenly starts breathing hard, a condition called exercise intolerance. Another sign of heart disease a pet owner may witness is a cat unable to use his back legs. This is usually due to a blood clot that formed in the heart and traveled to the iliac vein, down to the saddle thrombus. The blood clot prevents the flow of blood to a cat’s hind legs. Other symptoms of heart disease in a cat include coughing, general shortness of breath, lethargy, and weakness.

One of the first indications a cat has heart disease is the discovery of a heart murmur during a veterinary visit. A murmur doesn’t always mean a cat has heart disease, but further investigation can help determine if a cat needs immediate attention or watchful waiting.

Cat Heart Disease Diagnosis

The first part of diagnosing heart disease is with a physical exam of the feline patient. A cat’s heart rate and heart beat will be listened to by a veterinarian for any irregularities. If a cat has an advanced case of heart disease, his lungs will produce abnormal sounds in a stethoscope. A veterinarian will also ask the cat owner about a cat’s symptoms, how long they’ve occurred, and ask about any changes in a cat’s activities.

If irregularities of the heart are found, a veterinarian will proceed with taking x-ray images of a cat’s chest. The x-rays will show if a cat’s heart is enlarged and if fluid is present in the chest cavity or lungs. An electrocardiogram will then be done to monitor the electrical activity, rate and rhythm of a cat’s heart.

A vet may also order an echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound image of the heart. This advanced test uses sound waves to show a veterinarian what type of heart disease a cat has, measure the dimensions of the cat’s heart and its chambers, and give a live representation of the heart pumping. An ultrasound will also show any accumulations of fluid in the chest cavity or lungs, any abnormalities and defects of the heart, any blood clots and any tumors in the heart.

Heart disease in a cat is often called a “silent killer” because its symptoms often go unnoticed by a cat owner. It’s important for pet owners to keep a cat’s routine veterinary exams so the signs of heart disease a lay person wouldn’t notice can be discovered at that time.