Feline Heart Disease
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Feline Heart Disease
Ever wonder what a doctor is listening to when he or she uses one of these? They are listening to the sound of the heart and lungs as well as making note of the rate and rhythm of the heartbeat. During your cat's twice-yearly wellness consultation, your veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical examination that includes the use of this rather humble looking device.
A cat or dog's heart rate will speed up and slow down with respiration. This is absolutely normal for these animals but not for us. The heart sound should be a distinct lub-dub. When a heart murmur is ausculted, heard, it signifies turbulent blood flow. Blood is supposed to flow in one direction only. From the body into the heart, to the lungs, back into the heart and then back into the body. A soft murmur often requires no treatment and may not shorten a pet's life but it should be monitored at each examination.
Heart disease in a cat may have many causes. Before 1987, the lack of a particular amino acid in cat food, taurine, commonly lead to the development of a heart muscle disorder known as dilated cardiomyopathy. The walls of the heart would become paper thin, making it difficult for the heart to properly eject blood. Cats could present with moist lung sounds due to pulmonary edema, fluid buildup in the lungs. Their heart rates were often fast and a heart murmur appreciated. Weakness and a lack of appetite were common. This condition now occurs less frequently due to the supplementation of cat food with taurine but it still exists. Certain breeds of cats such as Siamese, Burmese and Abyssinians appear to be genetically predisposed to this condition.
Another type of primary heart muscle disease is called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Cats like other mammals possess a four-chambered heart. With this disease, the walls of the left pumping chamber, ventricle, become very thickened. This leads to a choking off the internal diameter of this chamber. The heart is then unable to pump a sufficient quantity of blood to meet the needs of the body. One of the hallmarks of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is sudden pain, weakness or paralysis in the rear legs. This is caused by blood clots that form in the major blood vessel supplying these limbs. Any age cat can be affected. It is most commonly encountered in 5 to 7 year old male felines. Maine coon cats are genetically predisposed to this disease.
If your veterinarian suspects that your cat has cardiac, heart disease, a work up will be needed to determine its severity and treatment options. Chest x-rays will indicate the size of the heart and helps to identify the presence of fluid in the lungs. An electrocardiogram monitors the electrical activity of the heart. Blood pressure testing is used to detect the dangerous condition known as hypertension. An ultrasound enables your doctor to look into the heart itself. Blood and urine tests check for underlying conditions that may adversely affect the whole body.
Heart disease is a treatable condition. If caught early, you, working with your veterinarian, can ensure that your cat has the best quality of life for as long as possible.