Heart disease is a serious medical condition in cats where an abnormality of the heart is present. When left untreated heart problems can lead to congestive heart failure. Here, our White Settlement vets share the types, symptoms, and treatments for heart disease in cats.

Types of Heart Disease in Cats

The most common type of heart disease in cats is adult-onset hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, caused by the enlargement or thickening of the heart.

Heart disease in cats can be either congenital or acquired:

  • Congenital heart disease in cats is present at birth and can be inherited. 
  • Acquired heart disease, often referred to as adult-onset heart disease, occurs in middle-aged to older cats due to wear and tear on the heart.  It can also result from an injury or infection.

In some cases, adult-onset heart disease develops as a secondary problem, with the primary problem originating in some other area of the body such as the thyroid gland.

Symptoms of Heart Disease in Cats

In cats, early signs of the disease can be difficult to spot. Most cats do not show clinical signs until the disease has progressed to the point where they become withdrawn and lethargic.

Below are some of the most common signs of heart disease in cats, however, not every cat will develop all the following symptoms and many cats will have more than one.

  • Poor appetite 
  • Weight loss 
  • Lethargy or inactivity
  • Difficulty with or discontinuing exercise
  • Regularly elevated heart rate
  • Increased respiratory rate and effort
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing 
  • Sudden hind leg paralysis 
  • Fainting/collapse

Treatment for Heart Disease in Cats

Unfortunately, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in cats has no cure, and the structural damage to the heart muscle is irreversible. In some cases, however, where heart disease is caused by a treatable condition, such as hyperthyroidism, the symptoms can be relieved once the primary condition is addressed.

Different types of medication can be prescribed by your veterinarian to help reduce the risk of congestive heart failure in cats. These drugs can help to relax the heart muscle, slow the heart rate, and reduce the heart's workload. Diuretics are commonly used to treat fluid overload.

A low-sodium diet, oxygen therapy, taurine supplementation, or surgical procedures to remove excess fluid buildup from the chest cavity or abdomen may be recommended by your veterinarian in addition to medication.

Heart Disease in Cats - Pain

Saddle thrombus is a painful, paralyzing condition that can develop in cats with heart disease. When a blood clot forms in the heart and travels to the aorta, it blocks blood flow to the cat's hind legs, causing this condition. If your cat develops sudden hind leg paralysis, contact your veterinarian or seek emergency care right away.

Heart Disease in Cats - Life Expectancy

Cats with structural heart disease are more likely to develop recurrent signs of congestive heart failure over time and will need to be medicated for the rest of their lives. After a cat is diagnosed with congestive heart failure, the average survival time is 6 to 12 months.

Cats that have been diagnosed with congestive heart failure will need frequent veterinary follow-up visits and additional tests may be performed to monitor the cat's heart health. 

Early Detection of Heart Disease

When it comes to monitoring heart health in cats, the most important thing to remember is that veterinarians can often detect heart disease before symptoms appear. Taking your cat to the vet for a complete physical examination and blood tests once a year is an excellent way to screen her 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 pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your cat is exhibiting signs of a heart problem contact us right away! Our White Settlement vets are can offer your cat the urgent care they need.