An Overview of Common Cat Heart Diseases

Cat heart disease, or cardiomyopathy, encompasses a range of different disorders that can affect your cat's heart muscle. Some cats never display any symptoms of heart disease; others suffer feline heart failure and death. Severity and prognosis vary according to many factors that depend upon individual health and lifestyle as well as breed. Here you can read more information about the types and symptoms of feline heart disease.

Types of Cat Heart Disease

Veterinary cardiologists classify feline cardiomyopathy into three different categories. They are:

  • Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)
  • Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)

Restrictive (sometimes called Concentric) Cardiomyopathy (RCM)

A fourth type, Unclassified Cardiomyopathy, has recently been accepted by most veterinary cardiologists. Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy has also been recently classified as a separate type of cat heart disease.

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Explained

This disorder causes some parts of the heart muscle to thicken, leading to changes in the way the heart pumps blood. HCM is believed to be genetic. Breeds prone to this disease include:

  • Maine Coon
  • American Shorthair
  • Persian
  • Ragdoll

Onset occurs in young adulthood, and more males than females suffer from HCM. A cat with HCM may develop a heart murmur or gallop rhythm. Feline heart failure may occur quickly once symptoms develop. HCM is the most common type of feline heart disease; symptoms include poor appetite, vomiting, and apparent weakness, though many cats display no symptoms at all until feline heart failure occurs.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy Explained

This condition causes a thinning of the heart muscles, leading to chamber dilation. This means that the heart cannot pump blood effectively. Diagnosis is most often made in older cats who are showing signs of heart failure; symptoms include slow heart rate, low blood pressure and low body temperature.

Cats with DCM, like cats with HCM, may develop blood clots in their arteries. They may also suffer from heart murmurs or gallop rhythms. This condition is common in cats fed on dog food, or on homemade diets, as these diets lack the amino acid taurine, essential for the health of your cat's heart.

Restrictive Cardiomyopathy Explained

In this condition, the heart muscle loses its elasticity and becomes 'stiff.' Scar tissue or muscular inflammation may be at the root of RCM. RCM may cause heart murmurs or other disturbances in the rhythm of your cat's heart; it can also lead to blood clots in the arteries.

Dangers of Blood Clots

Blood clots in your cat's arteries, or systemic thromboembolism, can lead to paralysis of the hind limbs and may make your cat's toe pads darken and feel cold. Blood clots in the arteries are very painful for your cat. Many owners don't realize when a cat is suffering from arterial blood clots, so any case of paralysis should be examined by a veterinarian.

Treatment of Feline Heart Disease

Treatment of cat heart disease is tailored to each individual's needs. Your cat may need medicine to support the strength and regularity of his heart contractions. Fluid may need to be extracted from his chest cavity. Dietary adjustments and nutritional supplements may be in order. Pain therapy and blood thinning medications may be necessary if your cat is suffering arterial blood clots.