Feline Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a dangerous condition that refers to the thickening of the lower chambers, or ventricles, in a cat’s heart. The average life expectancy for a cat that suffers from this disease is under eight hundred days, and it is rare for an affected cat to live longer than four years. At this time, there is no permanent cure for most cases of feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, but treatment is available to slow the condition’s progression.


The exact cause of feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is often unknown, but it is theorized to commonly be caused by genetic predisposition (the Persian in particular is thought to be genetically predisposed). Certain types of bacterial and viral infections are also thought to be connected with the disease. Rarely, dietary insufficiencies and negative reactions to drugs or other chemicals have been reported to be associated with a cat contracting the condition.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Cats are good at hiding their weaknesses, so even though they may experience pain in the early stages of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, they rarely display any noticeable symptoms. This makes early diagnosis very difficult. As the condition progresses, affected cats will start to exhibit lethargy and appetite loss, and will have trouble breathing. Even after treatment, blood clots can develop and become lodged in the legs, leading to weakness or paralysis in the legs. This secondary condition is very dangerous, and is often fatal if not treated in time.

Clinical diagnosis of feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is usually made with echocardiography, or an examination using a machine called an echocardiograph, which uses sound waves to see inside of the cat’s body. This method of diagnosis works because it allows the veterinarian to observe the heart as it functions inside of the cat.


Because the condition is not usually diagnosed until extensive damage to the heart muscle has already occurred, treatment is very difficult. Cases of feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy are usually treated with drugs that relax the cat’s heart muscle, such as beta-adrenergic or calcium blocking agents. These medications help to increase blood circulation by increasing the heart’s blood capacity, and are infrequently combined with other cardiac drugs, such as digoxin. Treatment also usually includes removal of excess fluids that collect in the chest cavity as a result of the condition. The health of a cat that suffers from feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy can be improved through dietary regulation. Affected animals should be fed a diet that is low in salt, to prevent excessive salt and water retention. Nutritional supplements such as taurine and carnitine are sometimes recommended.

Cats that suffer from feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy usually have a very low chance of survival, and treatment is difficult. The best way to prevent your cat from contracting this fatal illness is to simply avoid getting a cat that is genetically predisposed to the disease from the beginning.