Maine Coon Cat Health Problems

If you are the guardian of a Maine Coon cat, you are aware of his gentle and playful nature. You may not be aware that, though he is a hardy breed, he is also susceptible to some dangerous medical conditions.

Feline Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) in Maine Coon Cats

This hereditary disease of the heart muscle is sometimes called the “silent killer” because it is difficult to diagnose and the first symptom is often sudden death. HCM is the thickening of the muscle walls of your cat’s heart. The thickened walls can not contract properly and your cat’s heart pumps less efficiently.

It most commonly affects middle aged cats and males. However, younger cats and kittens can also develop the condition.

HCM may not progress to lethal levels, even without medication, or it may worsen rapidly. It can lead to congestive heart failure (CHF), a buildup of fluid around the heart and lungs, and saddle thrombus, a blood clot that blocks blood flow to the hind legs, resulting in paralysis.

Symptoms may be nonexistent, but can include:

  • Anorexia
  • Lethargy
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Coughing
  • Fainting
  • Paralysis of the hind legs

An echocardiogram is the only way to accurately diagnose HCM.

Treatment includes diuretics, beta blockers and ACE inhibitors.

Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) in Maine Coon Cats

SMA is an inherited condition where the spinal cord neurons that activate skeletal muscles in the trunk and limbs die. The muscles then begin to atrophy. If your kitten is affected, he will show signs by three or four months of age. Look for an odd gait and standing with toes out in front. By five or six months, he may be too weak to jump.

A cat with SMA is not in pain nor is he incontinent. While there is no treatment for SMA, the prognosis is good for indoor cats. Some are known to have lived for at least eight or nine years.

Hip Dysplasia in Maine Coon Cats

Hip dysplasia is an inherited disease where the hip joint develops abnormally. Because the ball and socket do not fit together properly, the bones may grind against each other or they may pop out of joint. Abnormal wear on the joint can lead to osteoarthritis as your cat ages.

Some cats will not have any symptoms, but you can watch for stiffness when walking, reluctance to jump or lameness.

Your vet can diagnose hip dysplasia with X-Rays.

There are a wide range of treatments for hip dysplasia that include weight loss, anti-inflammatory and pain medication, dietary supplements and, in severe cases, surgery.

Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) in Maine Coon Cats

PKD is an inherited and slowly progressive disease that causes small cysts to form on your cat’s kidneys. The cysts are present at birth and, over your cat’s life, grow in size, replacing his normal kidney tissue. The kidneys enlarge and renal function declines. If the disease progresses far enough, your cat will develop chronic renal failure.

The disease is irreversible, but because it progresses so slowly, your cat may never have any symptoms. If he does, they will usually occur at around seven years of age. Symptoms include:

  • Lethargy/depression
  • Increased urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased appetite
  • Vomiting

There is no treatment for cats who aren’t showing clinical signs of the disease. For those who are, the therapy may consist of a restrictive diet, subcutaneous fluids, medication and hormone therapy.

Ultrasound is the most reliable way to diagnose PKD.

Maine Coon cats are healthy cats, but the diseases they are predisposed to can be serious. Careful attention to your cat’s behavior is your best chance of catching them early. If you plan to breed your cat, consider having him screened for these conditions first.