Having a big heart is a good thing, but only when figuratively speaking.
In physical reality, a cat with an enlarged heart could die from many complications.
Feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the most widespread cardiac disease for domestic cats, impacting around 15 per cent of the population.
Older males are particularly susceptible, but females and young cats can develop this illness too!
What is feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)?
The left ventricle is the main pumping chamber inside the heart. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in cats causes the left ventricle to become thicker, which makes it difficult for the heart to relax – compromising this organ’s crucial ability to pump blood to the rest of the body.
As you can imagine, this has devastating consequences for cats with advanced cases of HCM:
- Clot formation
- Arterial thromboembolism (ATE)
- Congestive heart failure
- Sudden death
Prognosis is poor for a substantial minority of cats with HCM.
Thankfully there’s a far better outcome for the majority of feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy cases.
The good news is that most cats with this condition actually live a fairly normal life with no obvious clinical signs of HCM!
What causes HCM in cats?
HCM is largely considered an inherited condition that’s caused by a gene that mutates for a mysterious reason – so there’s no way to prevent this disease.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in cats impacts certain breeds more than others:
- Persian cat
- Maine Coon
- British Shorthair
Symptoms of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in cats
This disease tends to progress slowly over the years, but faster progression may occur in some cases (months instead of years).
Most HCM cases are mild with no obvious signs:
A heart murmur is a common symptom, but isn’t always present. The observation of a heart murmur or irregular heartbeat is helpful, because it usually prompts a cardiac evaluation which enables early diagnosis and treatment.
Prognosis is good when mild cases are treated! These fortunate cats are checked every year to make sure the condition hasn’t further progressed.
On the other hand, advanced feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is life-threatening:
- Fluid accumulates around the lungs
- Low body temperature (hypothermia)
- Rapid breathing
- Reduced appetite
- Open-mouth breathing
- Acute pain in the hind limbs
- Painful paralysis
- Behavioural changes such as depression and seclusion
- Blood clots
- Heart failure
Unfortunately, life expectancy is usually between six and 18 months when congestive heart failure occurs.
Sudden death rarely occurs with no other signs, but it can happen.
Diagnosing hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in cats
Early treatment improves your cat’s chances of surviving feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
An ultrasound of the heart (echocardiography) is the most crucial part of the diagnostic process, as this measures the heart walls and chambers.
Do you know if your cat is related to a feline that’s been diagnosed with HCM?
If the answer is yes, then your cat should be screened with an echocardiography, even if there’s no heart murmur present! This advice applies to both purebred and mixed breeds.
In some cases, blood pressure and blood thyroid levels are examined too. X-rays, blood tests and genetic tests may also be required to investigate the issue further.
If your kitty is a Maine Coon or Ragdoll breed, genetic testing is an option to see if your cat carries the mutation that’s known to cause HCM in both these breeds.
Feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy treatment
Mild cases of HCM don’t always require treatment in the early stages, as long as the condition is closely monitored by the vet.
When early medical treatment is needed, it usually involves calcium channel blockers or beta blockers.
As for advanced cases of ACM:
Treatment depends on the health complications that are present or likely to occur. Low-dose aspirin, pain therapy, diuretics and anti-thrombotic drugs are usually recommended to manage heart disease and lower the chances of clots developing.
Sometimes surgery is required to remove fluid from the chest cavity or lungs, for cats with congestive heart failure.
Treatment usually won’t stop advanced HCM from progressing, but it will help your beloved pet to feel more comfortable.
Pet insurance for cats helps you to afford vital treatment
It’s heartbreaking to watch your beloved kitty struggle to breathe because you can’t afford treatment that could help her to feel better.
Veterinary care in Australia is so expensive. Many families don’t have thousands of dollars to spare, and there’s no government subsidy to help with costs.
No “pawrent” should have to choose between paying for veterinary treatment and other crucial expenses, such as food or bills.
Thankfully there’s an affordable safety net:
If you have reliable pet insurance, you don’t have to scrimp and save to find money for veterinary care. Your policy lets you claim most of your vet bills that aren’t for pre-existing conditions.
But what if you never need to lodge a claim? Is that a waste of money?
No, you still get good value:
We send you free Potiki Perks to help you take care of your beloved Kitty’s general wellbeing.
All customers get up to $400 worth of tailored essential pet supplies like tick medication, as well as 24/7 access to an online chat service with experienced vets.
This is on top of reliable Potiki pet cover (via petinsurance.com.au) that pays for 80 per cent of your eligible vet bills for unexpected illness and injury.
- Get a quick Potiki quote to find out what your premium will cost for one year.
- Submit payment if you’re satisfied with that amount (email us on [email protected] with any questions).
- Log into your personal portal to select items for your Potiki Perks package, which will be swiftly delivered to you.
- Lodge a claim if you need help paying vet bills for unexpected sickness or injury.