What is Heart Disease in Cats?
What is it?
How is it Treated?
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Milo, an affectionate and playful tabby cat, had always been the center of Emily’s world. However, when Milo started breathing heavily and exhibited reduced energy levels, Emily grew increasingly worried about his well-being. She promptly took him to the veterinarian for a comprehensive check-up. After performing a series of tests, including an echocardiogram, the veterinarian diagnosed Milo with heart disease—a condition that can affect cats of all breeds and ages.
Cats are surprisingly prone to heart disease, affecting roughly 15 percent of the population. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among cats. It’s also the number 1 killer of dogs. But how do we diagnose heart disease in our furry friends?
Cats are prone to developing heart disease due to their unique anatomy. Their hearts are located low in their chest cavity instead of near their shoulders like dogs’ or humans’. This makes it difficult for them to pump oxygenated blood efficiently.
In addition, their arteries are much narrower than those of dogs or humans. As a result, they tend to develop atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) sooner than dogs or humans. This means that cats may develop heart disease earlier than dogs or humans. They also tend to live shorter lives than either dogs or humans.
Types of Heart Diseases in Cats
Several types of heart diseases affect cats. Some are congenital (present at birth). Others occur later in life. Congenital heart defects include patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), ventricular septal defect (VSD), and tetralogy of Fallot (TOF).
Two types of heart disease in cats include congenital and acquired. Congenital heart disease occurs during fetal development, while acquired heart disease happens after birth. Both conditions can lead to sudden death, although each type requires different treatments.
- Congenital heart diseases are defects that appear during fetal development. Problems with the structure of the heart itself cause it. These problems usually result in abnormal blood flow through the body. There are two main categories of congenital heart diseases: Cyanotic and cyanotic. Low oxygen levels in the bloodstream characterize cyanotic heart diseases. Acyanotic heart diseases are marked instead by high oxygen levels.
- Cyanotic heart diseases can be further divided into four groups based on the location of the problem. Ventricular septal defect (VSD), patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), pulmonary stenosis (PS), and tetralogy of Fallot (TOF) are all common types of cyanotic heart diseases.
- Acyanotic heart disease can also be divided into four groups. Atrial septal defect (ASD), ventricular septal defect, coarctation of the aorta (COA), and hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) are all common forms.
- Acquired heart disease is caused by damage to the heart muscle. Common causes include inflammation, infection, trauma, and toxins. Symptoms vary depending on the underlying cause but typically appear gradually over weeks or months. Treatment depends on the specific problem causing the damage.
Causes of Feline Heart Failure
Cat’s heart disease dietary indiscretions, Cyanosis, and Acyanosis cause heart disease in cats. Dietary indiscretions include eating too many fatty foods, specifically those containing cholesterol. Cholesterol is found in animal products, including meat, eggs, dairy, fish, poultry, and shellfish.
Cats often eat too many fatty foods. They tend to prefer fatty meats over lean ones. The result is plaque build-up in the arteries and narrowing of the streets. Plaque build-up narrows the arteries, which reduces blood flow through the body.
Cats with poor circulation can develop Cyanosis. Cyanosis occurs when oxygenated blood cannot reach the tissues. This results in pale skin and lips, lack of energy, and even death.
Cats with low blood oxygenation can also develop Acyanosis. Acyanosis occurs when the blood becomes too acidic. This makes the cat appear blue around the mouth and nose.
Dietary indiscretions can lead to plaque build-up in the arterial walls. Plaque build-up narrows the arteries and reduces blood flow.
To prevent plaque build-up in your pet’s arteries, feed him a diet high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are found in flaxseed oil, salmon, tuna, and other seafood. In addition, feed your cat less greasy food and more fruits and vegetables.
Make sure your cat gets plenty of exercises. Exercise increases heart rate and blood pressure, which improves blood flow throughout the body.
Symptoms of Heart Disease in Cats
The most apparent symptom is coughing, especially when eating or drinking. Other signs include lethargy, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, excessive thirst, and difficulty breathing.
The most important symptom of heart disease in cats is difficulty breathing. Difficulty breathing indicates that your cat may have trouble getting enough oxygen to his lungs. Your veterinarian should examine your cat to determine whether it needs treatment.
Lack of appetite is another symptom of feline heart disease. Lack of desire means your pet is eating less than usual. This can lead to dehydration, which is dangerous for your cat. If your cat has lost weight, contact your vet immediately.
Weight loss is yet another symptom of heart disease. Weight loss occurs when your cat doesn’t eat as much as usual. This causes him to become dehydrated and weak. He may also experience diarrhea, depression, and weakness.
Dehydration occurs when there isn’t enough water in your body. This happens when you lose too much fluid through sweating, urination, or diarrhea. Dehydration causes fatigue, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea, and dry mouth.
If your cat has any symptoms of heart disease, see your veterinarian immediately. Early diagnosis and treatment can help save your cat’s life.
Diagnosis of Heart Disease in Cats
Veterinary doctors diagnose heart disease in cats using physical examination, X-rays, electrocardiograms (ECGs), echocardiography, and blood tests.
- Physical examinations involve checking your cat’s eyes, ears, nose, mouth, teeth, gums, skin, fur, paws, tail, abdomen, chest, neck, head, spine, and limbs. Doctors also examine your cat’s heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, spleen, stomach, intestines, bladder, reproductive organs, lymph nodes, thyroid gland, pancreas, gallbladder, and urinary tract.
- X-rays detect abnormalities in bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles, cartilage, and internal organs. They’re also helpful in detecting tumors, cysts, foreign objects, and bone fractures.
- Electrocardiograms (ECG) measure electrical activity in your cat’s heart. ECGs help diagnose arrhythmias, abnormal rhythms, and cardiac arrest.
- Echocardiography uses ultrasound waves to create images of your cat’s heart. Echocardiograms help determine the size and shape of your cat’s heart chambers, valves, and walls.
- Blood tests are performed to determine your cat’s overall health and identify any underlying medical conditions. Blood tests can reveal elevated levels of creatine kinase (CK), alkaline phosphatase (ALP), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), bilirubin, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, chloride, glucose, urea nitrogen, creatinine, total protein, albumin, globulin, triglycerides, cholesterol, thyroxine, free T4, and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).
In most cases, congestive heart failure is caused by old age, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, hyperthyroidism, renal as a sign of disease, and valvular heart disease.
Treatment Options for Heart Disease in Cats
Depending on the type and severity, treatment may vary. Treatment options include medication, surgery, and radiation therapy.
- Medications are prescribed to treat symptoms of heart disease in your cat. Medication treatment may include antihistamines, diuretics, beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, digitalis glycosides, nitrates, anticoagulants, digoxin, and warfarin.
- Surgery involves removing diseased tissue or replacing damaged parts of your cat’s heart with artificial materials. Surgery is often recommended when your cat experiences severe complications from heart disease.
- Radiation therapy involves exposing your cat to low doses of radiation. Radiation therapy is sometimes used to destroy cancer cells in specific cancers. It’s also used to shrink enlarged glands and control pain associated with arthritis in cats.
Treatment for older cats with congestive heart failure focuses on improving their quality of life. Owners can provide plenty of exercise and attention to prevent further deterioration.
How To Prevent Heart Disease in Cats
You can do several things to protect your cat from developing heart problems.
- Don’t feed your cat table scraps. Feed your commercial cat food instead. Commercial foods contain no animal fats, known to cause common heart disease in cats.
- Avoid giving your cat too much salt. Salt can lead to hypertension, which is another major factor in causing heart disease in cats. Limit your cat’s salt intake to 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds of their body weight.
- Limit your cat’s exposure to cigarette smoke. Cigarette smoke contains chemicals that can damage your cat’s heart.
- Provide your cat with plenty of exercises. Exercise helps your cat maintain a healthy weight and reduces stress.
- Monitor your cat’s diet carefully. Please make sure they get regular veterinary care.
- Give your cat a balanced diet. Include fresh vegetables and fruits in your cat’s daily meals. Avoid feeding your cat dry kibble. Dry kibbles are usually made from corn, wheat, soybeans, and other grains. These ingredients can contribute to heart disease in cats. Instead, choose canned or raw meat diets. Raw meats are healthier than cooked ones.
- Vaccinate your cat against the feline leukemia virus (FeLV). FeLV is an infection that can cause serious health issues in cats. Vaccinating your cat against FeLV prevents them from contracting the virus.
- Consult your veterinarian regularly. Ask your vet questions about your cat’s health. This will help ensure that your cat stays healthy.
Frequently Asked Questions
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