Feline Cardiomyopathy Explained

The term "cardiomyopathy" refers to a disease of the heart. Feline cardiomyopathy occurs when the walls of the cat's heart muscle either get way too thick due to uncontrolled contraction or inflammation, or way too thin due to uncontrolled dilation. Either form of feline cardiomyopathy is an extremely serious condition that could lead to heart failure and death.

Causes of Feline Cardiomyopathy

The heart can start uncontrolled dilation due to a deficiency in a vital amino acid called taurine. Taurine deficiencies are not nearly as common as they used to be because veterinarians have since identified the deficiency and instructed cat food manufacturers to supplement the amino acid in all cat food. Non-cancerous, but still uncontrolled, growth of the thyroid gland, a condition called hyperthyroidism, can cause a hypertrophic imbalance that can result in heart muscle inflammation. Hyperthyroidism is the most common cause of the form of feline cardiomyopathy that involves a thickening of the heart muscle.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Feline Cardiomyopathy

As with most serious diseases in cats, feline cardiomyopathy sometimes has no visible effect until the later stages, which may be weeks after the disease is first contracted. So, even if the condition is chronic, it may appear that the cat has only been sick for a few days. A drop in the flow of oxygen caused by feline cardiomyopathy can cause inactivity and a loss of appetite when the condition is in the beginning stages, but later stages can dangerously compromise the flow of oxygen, resulting in excessive inactivity and labored breathing. Fluid can build up in the lungs due to an advanced case of feline cardiomyopathy, which can add to the cat's difficulty breathing.

The most common way to diagnose a case of feline cardiomyopathy is an x-ray photograph of the inside of the cat's body. Veterinarians can look at the x-ray for an abnormally shaped heart or signs of fluid in the lungs. Abnormalities in heart shape can also be detected using other ultrasound imaging equipment, such as an echocardiogram or sonogram. While the x-ray can only detect heart shape, ultrasound examinations can observe the heart as it functions, which can help veterinarians to identify which form of feline cardiomyopathy they are dealing with. Blood tests can be taken to look for thyroid hormones, an overabundance of which can imply that the thyroid gland is causing the condition.

Cardiomyopathy Treatment

Depending on which form of feline cardiomyopathy the cat is suffering from, different treatments are administered. Steroids are applied to stop heart swelling, and other drugs can help to relieve uncontrollable dilation. Usually, these drugs will have to be administered regularly for the rest of the cat's life; there is no permanent cure for feline cardiomyopathy. A conclusive treatment is possible if the condition is caused by hyperthyroidism, which can be cured permanently.

Feline cardiomyopathy is one of the most serious diseases domesticated cats can contract. Since it is difficult to recognize in its early stages, it is highly recommended that you take your cat for cardiomyopathy checkups regularly.