Heart Failure In Cats
My first comment would be that cats are really good at hiding disease.
Often, especially with heart disease, it won’t be picked up until late. So definitely don’t feel guilty about not realizing that your cat was in heart failure. Cats will modify their behavior to hide their disease whereas a dog will run and run and then will collapse. A cat will just slowly reduce their activity levels. They may be sleeping more, they’re not going to exercise and so you might not pick up anything. You’re not going to pick up breathlessness or an exercise intolerance or an inability to chase a ball, because they just don’t carry out those behaviors.
So don’t worry and don’t feel guilty about that, its very common.
Treatment Of Congestive Heart Failure In Cats
Congestive heart failure caused by hyperthyroidism may be reversed once the thyroid condition has been successfully treated. In other cases, the treatment plan will be based on the severity of symptoms and the underlying cause of the condition:
If symptoms are severe, particularly if the cat is having difficulty breathing or has extremely low blood pressure, hospitalization may be required. Oxygen therapy may be administered when there is fluid surrounding the heart or lungs, and the fluid may need to be drained. This will help to ease pressure on the heart, makes breathing easier. When fluid build-up has been removed, the heart is able to pump blood more efficiently. If fluid is present in the chest or abdomen, it may be removed using a technique called tapping.
Surgery may be recommended to treat cases of congestive heart failure that are caused by a birth defect or a congenital or acquired heart valve disease. This treatment option is often expensive and requires a surgical specialist.
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Because Theyre Part Of The Family
Heart disease tends to be less common in cats than dogs, but it still affects one out of every ten cats around the world. If heart disease goes untreated, it can lead to congestive heart failure.
Dont risk losing part of your family to an often treatable heart condition. If you have concerns, seek medical advice quickly. Our board-certified cat cardiologists are here to help.
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Early Signs Of Heart Disease
In the initial phase of disease, cats may show no signs at all and appear completely normal. In fact a number of cats with cardiomyopathy may never actually develop clinical disease. However, while in some cats progression of the underlying disease is slow, in others it can be quite rapid.
Some early signs of heart disease may be detectable during a clinical examination by your vet, prior to the onset of any overt signs. This is one of the reasons why every cat should be checked at least once a year by a vet . Early warning signs that your vet might detect include:
Many cats, especially those in the early stages of the disease, may only have changes in the cardiac muscle that are detected during ultrasound examination of the heart. These cats are clinically silent , although many will go on to develop signs later on.
Recovery Of Congestive Heart Failure In Cats
Cats that have been diagnosed with congestive heart failure will need frequent follow-up visits. During the appointments, it is likely that blood tests, radiographs, and echocardiograms will be performed in order to monitor the cat’s heart health. It is important to attend all follow-up appointments as medication may need to be adjusted periodically.
A low-sodium diet that is balanced and highly nutritious will likely be recommended. There are many commercially-available cat foods that meet this requirement. Diet is very important to successful recovery, and no changes should be made without first checking with the veterinarian.
In some cases, the vet will recommend a moderate exercise plan intended to strengthen the heart while keeping blood pressure at a controlled rate. If the vet has not specifically recommended exercise then the cat should be kept calm and activity should be limited. When cats are unwilling to comply, owners may need to take preventative measures. Periodic cage rest may be necessary and it may be helpful to set up barriers to limit space available for running and jumping.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Congestive Heart Failure In Cats
According to Abby Faerber, DVM, of State Line Animal Hospital in Leawood, Kan., the main symptoms of congestive heart failure in cats may include panting after activity or exercise, general lethargy and lack of appetite, as well as possible paralysis of the hind limbs.
Dr. Faerber adds that some cats with congestive heart failure could be at risk of collapse and sudden death, though this is less common.
Longer Term Management Of Congestive Heart Failure
Following diagnosis of congestive heart failure, echocardiography should be performed. Although most cats with heart disease have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, in fact there is huge phenotypic variability and treatment options are best guided using information obtained from echocardiographic assessment.
Cats diagnosed with congestive heart failure will usually require chronic diuretic therapy however, it is sometimes possible to reduce or withdraw diuretic therapy altogether in some cases.
Frusemide is generally used at 1-2mg/kg twice daily, but this should always be reduced to minimum effective dose. Response to diuretic therapy should be monitored using echocardiography and chest radiographs however, minimum effective dose can often be determined using owner observations of resting respiratory rate and effort at home.
Cats with severe left atrial dilation and poor atrial contractility, or cats with history of aortic thromboembolism, should be treated with clopidogrel at 14 x 75mg once daily which has been shown to improve survival . Clopidogrel is not always well tolerated in cats because of its bitter taste, in which case aspirin should be used at 14 x 75mg every three days, although it is less effective than clopidogrel.
Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and spironolactone can be useful in management of chronic congestive heart failure. Their benefit is well established in people and dogs but studies are lacking in cats.
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Signs Of Heart Failure
Signs associated with heart failure depend on the causes of the heart failure and the heart chamber that is affected. With left-side congestive heart failure, signs are associated with a backup of pressure in the vessels delivering blood to the left ventricle. This causes fluid to accumulate in the lungs and in the chest cavity outside the lungs . Coughing and difficulty breathing are the most common signs, although cats with heart failure are far less likely to cough than dogs with the disease. Increased breathing rate, loss of appetite, or reluctance to exercise may also be noted. The decreased volume of blood pumped out of the heart can cause the paws and ears to feel cold and can lower a cat’s body temperature. Cats with left-side congestive heart failure often breathe faster than healthy cats. Your veterinarian may direct you to count the number of breaths your cat takes within a minute when it is sleeping or resting . This sleeping respiratory rate can then be regularly monitored to identify early heart failure and response to medications.
Right-side congestive heart failure results in increased pressure in the bodyâs veins and capillaries. This can result in an accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, chest cavity, liver, or limbs. Right-side heart failure is uncommon in cats.
Prognosis For Cats With Cardiomyopathy
Even though hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in cats is incurable, the old saying, an ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure, still greatly applies to cats living with heart disease or congestive heart failure for cats in one form or another. This is because if HCM is detected and arrested in its mild to moderate stages, then the prognosis for an essentially normal life for a number of years can be good. However, the form and severity of the disease at the time of discovery will ultimately dictate the prognosis in all cases. Additionally:
- HCM can worsen quickly or progress slowly over a period of years
- HCM can remain undetected in some cats until the advanced stages, and the time between diagnosis and death can be a matter of weeks or months
- HCM can remain mild in some cats and never progress to the advanced stages, while other cats will progress to the advanced stages despite medical intervention
The existence of these variables and possibilities make both preventive and follow up care of the utmost importance where heart disease and congestive heart failure are concerned.
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Heart Disease In Cats
Some cats with heart disease can develop a painful, paralyzing condition called saddle thrombus. This condition is caused when a blood clot develops in the heart and moves out of the aorta blocking blood flow to a cat’s hind legs. If you notice sudden hind leg paralysis in your cat contact your vet or seek emergency care immediately.
The 9 Best Cat Foods For Congestive Heart Failure
Follow your veterinarians advice if he recommends a prescription diet but dont be afraid to ask questions. Many prescription diets are made with animal by-products and low-quality grains, so think twice before blindly following your vets recommendations. Ask whether a nutritionally balanced cat food made with whole food ingredients might provide the same benefit.
Here are our top picks for the best cat food for congestive heart failure:
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Diagnosis Of Congestive Heart Failure In Cats
The treating veterinarian will review the cat’s full medical history. Owners should be prepared to discuss details regarding the onset and severity of symptoms and share any theories regarding any other possible causes. Since the condition is sometimes hereditary, any information that can be provided regarding the cats family line will also be helpful.
A physical exam will be performed and standard lab tests will be ordered. These include a complete blood count , thyroid test, electrolyte panel, biochemical panel, urinalysis and heartworm test. Cats may also be tested for feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukemia . Using a stethoscope, the vet will be able to note sounds of congestion which would indicate the presence of fluid in the lungs. Blood pressure will be measured and visual diagnosis may be made using chest X-rays, electrocardiogram and/or echocardiogram.
Complications Associated With Hcm
Many felines diagnosed with HCM eventually develop signs of congestive heart failure. Cats with HCM are at risk for developing blood clots that can escape the heart and eventually become lodged in a blood vessel that has become too narrow. This is called a thromboembolism. A common area for this to occur is the hind quarters region, at the point the aorta splits before going into each rear leg. If this happens, paralysis and severe pain will result. In fact, the paralysis and pain are very common reasons many owners initially bring their cat to see a veterinarian. However, what they thought might be a broken leg or lameness is actually hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in cats.
With supportive veterinary and in-home family care, between 40%-50% of patients with thromboembolic disease can internally break down clots and regain some amount of limb function over time.
Due to the nature of how blood clots fragment and disperse throughout the body, cats that experience blood clotting once are at a significantly increased risk of developing another clot within the following weeks or months. Because of the somber prognosis for cats that have suffered a thromboembolic event, some owners elect euthanasia.
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Symptoms Of Heart Problems In Cats
There are several possible symptoms of heart problems in cats that cat owners can be on the lookout for, including:
- Difficulty with or discontinuing exercise
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing possibly accompanied by fluid buildup in the lungs and chest
- Sudden paralysis of the hind quarters
- Fast breathing during dormancy
- Chronic coughing
- Regularly elevated heart rate
The above symptoms can indicate one of many possible conditions, including feline heart disease and potentially something unrelated to the cardiovascular system. If you notice any of the above symptoms, we recommend scheduling an appointment with our veterinary cardiologist immediately.
Early Detection Of Heart Disease
The most important thing to know when it comes to monitoring heart health in cats is that veterinarians can often identify heart disease before symptoms occur. Taking your cat to the vet annually for a complete physical examination and blood tests are highly effective at screening your pet for other diseases that can affect her heart.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pets condition, please make an appointment with your vet.
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Heart Disease In Cats: Diagnosis Treatment And Prognosis
There are several types of heart muscle diseases in cats.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is an inherited disorder that manifests as thickening of the left ventricle , such that the heart muscle has a decreased ability to relax and fill normally with blood.
Breeds such as the Maine coon and ragdoll have been found to be predisposed. Restrictive cardiomyopathy is characterized by stiffening of the ventricles, with a decreased ability to relax, and often to contract.
Dilated cardiomyopathy is characterized by dilation and weakening of one or both ventricles such that the heart has a decreased ability to contract and pump blood forward to the body. This historically has been associated with taurine-deficient diets and is now rare in cats.
Unclassified cardiomyopathy is the term used for cats with cardiac abnormalities that do not necessarily fit into one of the above categories.
Other Conditions That Can Mimic Symptoms
Asthma in cats actually looks somewhat like CHF, because many of the symptoms overlap. An asthmatic cat will have difficulty breathing periodically, which may be accompanied by coughing. They also may spend time breathing rapidly with their mouths open. Vomiting is another symptom. They can even get grey gums or tongue if the asthma is severe enough. Honestly, this emphasizes how important it is to keep a regular schedule of vet visits. Our cat, Tiger Jack, was asthmatic for his entire life. When he was diagnosed with CHF this summer, we had long discussions with our vet about why we didnt see this coming – and he explained that, with Tiger being an asthmatic cat, we wouldnt have recognized the symptoms as anything out of the ordinary for him. We didnt realize he had CHF until it was well-advanced and most treatment options didnt make sense for his quality of life. Congestive heart failure is a progressive condition, and theres no curing it once your cat has it. It could be genetic or environmental, but it happens. As always, keep your kitties happy with good diets, low stress, and plenty of regular vet visits so any serious medical conditions come to light early. Its easier to see this coming, and enjoy the last months with your cat with your eyes open. In memory of Tiger Jack the Explorer!, 2006-2020, the best giant orange fluffy tabby bud we could have ever hoped for.
Written by Deborah Brannon
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Types Of Heart Failure
Heart failure can be divided into 4 functional classifications: systolic myocardial failure, impedance to cardiac inflow, pressure overload, and volume overload.
Systolic myocardial failure is a general reduction in the ability of the heart muscle to contract. This can be identified with echocardiography . There is reduced wall motion during contraction of the ventricles. If the reduction is significant, normal blood flow cannot be maintained. It may be caused by nutritional deficiency, genetics, trauma, infection, drugs or poisons, electric shock, heat stroke, or tumors. Some cases have no known cause.
Heart failure resulting from the impedance to cardiac inflow may result in a decrease in blood flow. This may be caused by external compression of the heart , diastolic dysfunction resulting in a stiff ventricle and reduced ventricular filling , or abnormalities of physical structures of the heart.
Heart failure caused by pressure overload occurs as a result of longterm increases in stress to the heart wall during contraction. This leads to thickening of the wall of the affected ventricle. This may result from the obstruction of blood flow from the heart or increased blood pressure throughout the body or in the arteries of the lungs .
Diagnosing Hcm In Cats
If you have concerns about your cat and heart disease, its best to reach out to a pet cardiologist near you to get a clear diagnosis and treatment plan. CVCA has several locations in , Kentucky, Texas, and Virginia. Give us a call, and we will set up one or all of the following:
- Physical exam including listening to the heart and lungs, checking your cats blood pressure.
- NT-proBNP blood test that measures a heart stress hormone thet can help detect heart disease.
- Electrocardiogram to measure electrical activity of your cats heart to find heart rhythm problems.
- Echocardiogram ultrasound by a board-certified vet cardiologist to view your cats heart in great detail. This test is the gold standard for diagnosing heart disease in cats.
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Vomiting Depression Loss Of Appetite And Other Symptoms
Just like with people, heart disease in cats can be the “silent killer.” Too often, HCM and congestive heart failure are in the late stages by the time our feline friends finally start showing the clinical signs.
The two most significant symptoms of heart problems in cats are troubled breathing and difficulty walking, particularly weakness or paralysis of the hind legs. The respiratory distress is due to fluid buildup, of course. Watch for rapid, labored, or open-mouthed breathing.
The hind-leg weakness or paralysis is probably the result of a blood clot. With HCM and congestive heart failure, blood clots often form at the base of the aorta, cutting off the blood supply to the hind legs. If you notice either of these cat heart disease symptoms, seek emergency care for your furry loved one.
There are other, less obvious symptoms you can be on the lookout for, too. These symptoms on their own may not indicate any trouble with your kitty’s ticker, but always let your veterinarian know if you observe:
Unlike with dogs, coughing in cats with heart disease is not a prevalent symptom. If your feline is coughing often, this could indicate another health issue, such as asthma or allergies, so it is important to take your four-legged friend to their veterinarian for a check-up.