Cats may come in all shapes, sizes, and temperaments, but they are all equals when it comes to risk for heart disease. Heart diseases are difficult to detect in cats, one of many reasons an annual vet clinic checkup is a must for every pet. If these visits are skipped, by the time an animal shows signs of distress, heart disease could have advanced to an irreversible stage.
The top signs of heart disease include labored breathing and shortness of breath, withdrawn or depressed behavior, a sudden loss of appetite without obvious cause, weight loss or weight gain, a bloated abdomen, fainting or collapsing, weakness, or unusual restlessness. If your cat displays hind leg pain and difficulty walking on her hind legs, you may be seeing a symptom of a thromboembolism, a common blood clot that’s often the first sign of feline heart disease.
Cats with heart disease (also called cardiomyopathy) may also vomit, which is not a sign of heart disease in dogs (canines often cough).
If your cat exhibits any one of these behaviors, don’t panic. Just make an appointment to visit your pet hospital, since a veterinarian will want to do diagnostic tests to check your pet’s health and rule out any other health concerns.
Regular annual visits are one of the best ways to prevent heart disease in cats, since your veterinarian can spot signs of trouble earlier and recommend specific early treatment plans to help reduce risk. Since signs of heart disease in cats are obviously hard to spot at home, if cats don’t receive annual veterinary care, by the time the owner notices something is truly wrong, the condition is usually advanced and damage is severe.
A primary prevention tactic is diet management. Commercial cat foods are carefully balanced to provide essential vitamins and nutrients to help cats avoid heart issues including dilated cardiomyopathy, once a leading cause of feline heart disease that was worsened by critical amino acid deficiencies in food. Many cat foods once lacked enough taurine, an indispensable amino acid necessary for heart health, good vision, and tooth health, but today the issue has largely been corrected.
When we suspect a feline patient at LazyPaw Animal Hospitals might have a heart issue, we usually run diagnostics for heart disease including a check for murmurs or unusual sounds, X-rays, and possibly an echocardiogram to show us an ultrasound image of the heart. If a feline does have a heart problem, our animal surgeons will often prescribe a medication such as a beta-blocker, which slows the heart rate and lowers demands on the ventricles, helping the heart relax. Diuretics or ICE inhibitors may also be prescribed if a patient has heart failure.
A healthy diet and proper exercise are key in preventing heart problems, but so is an annual checkup. If you’re in the Dallas or Frisco area and need to set up an appointment, call us today—or you can schedule an appointment online with just a few clicks!