Understanding Heart Disease In Cats
Your cat's heart is split into four chambers, and the bottom left chamber, known as the left ventricle, receives blood from the lungs and pumps it into the aorta. The aorta is the main artery in your cat's body and is responsible for pumping oxygenated blood around the body. When a cat has heart disease, the left ventricle is impaired due to thickening of the muscle tissue, and this leads to insufficient blood flow to the aorta.
It's not always possible to determine why some cats develop heart disease, but it does tend to occur more frequently in male cats. Some breeds, such as Persians, seem to be at a greater risk of developing the condition, and cats that have certain pre-existing health conditions, such as hypertension or hyperthyroidism, are also more prone to developing heart disease than the general population. Here's an overview of this condition in cats:
Symptoms of heart disease can initially be mild and gradual in presentation, or they can be sudden and serious. Common symptoms to look out for include lethargy, loss of appetite and difficulty breathing. You may notice your cat can't tolerate exertion, such as chasing a toy, and the pads on their paws may become discoloured due to not enough oxygen reaching their legs. Some cats will also experience sudden limb paralysis, which is associated with a clot forming in the aorta due to sluggish blood flow.
Symptoms associated with heart disease need to be investigated immediately, as heart failure can occur suddenly when heart disease is left untreated. Your vet will take details of your cat's symptoms, collect blood samples to check for inflammation or infection and carry out an electrocardiogram. This involves your cat's heart function being monitored using electrical impulse feedback from small pads placed on your cat's chest that are linked to a machine that records heart activity and muscle performance. Your vet will also use diagnostic imaging, such as an ultrasound, to check the health of each of the four chambers of your cat's heart and determine if the left ventricle or aorta are thickened or damaged.
Treatment for heart disease typically includes oxygen therapy to stabilise breathing and the use of medication to improve blood flow. Your vet may also prescribe a drug that can improve the functioning of the left ventricle by reducing thickened muscle tissue. Cats with heart disease typically require a diet low in sodium to keep blood pressure stable, and they will require a quiet living environment free of stress. Your vet will monitor your cat at regular intervals to ensure the medication they have prescribed continues to be effective and no further damage to your cat's heart is occurring.
If your cat develops any of the symptoms associated with heart disease, they need to be examined by a vet immediately to minimise the risk of death from sudden heart failure. Contact a provider of vet emergency services to learn more.