Heart Disease in Cats: Far Too Common
Heart disease is a common cause of death in cats, and might be the most common explanation of death in indoor cats ranging from about three years old or so to eight or nine years (before cancers and other diseases associated with old age begin to happen). By far, a specific type of heat disease called feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the most common cause of heart disease among cats. Heart disease is also the most common cause of sudden death in cats. The problem is that signs may be subtle or or not appear until the cat suddenly drops dead. Lots of reasons indoor/outdoor cats may not return home, no one knows how many of those cats suddenly fell ill.
In cats with this condition, the walls of the ventricles around the heart become thick. However, because the muscle fibers are replaced by fibrous connective tissue (scar tissue), the thicker heart walls do not translate into increased pumping power. In fact, the heart is actually weakened as the affected wall of the heart becomes less elastic.
Lots of well known cats have succumbed to HCM.
Ricky was a cat, who before YouTube, was playing the piano, even making personal appearances at pet stores. Ricky was my cat. In Ricky’s name, in 2002, through the Winn Feline Foundation, I began the Ricky Fund through the Winn Feline Foundation.
Pet writer/journalist Andrea Dorn recently lost her agility champion Mewdy Blue. Agility is an obstacle course typically associated with dogs. but Mewdy Blue was definitely not a canine. When cats do partake in agility, it’s mostly pedigreed cats – but Mewdy Blue was an “ordinary” cat who at six months earned an unordinary distinction as Best Household Pet at a cat show.
Sometimes, as mentioned, cats with HCM suddenly die. The good news is that these cats typically never suffer symptoms before their sudden demise. But imagine the shock to family members – particularly children – who never new the cat was sick.
Sometimes, despite medications, cats with HCM suffer assorted symptoms – impacting their quality of life and the family’s checkbook. Sometimes the symptoms don’t seem associated with heart disease, such as gastro-intestinal disorders. Other cats may “throw a clot” and the signs appear as if the cat has suffered a stroke. This is painful for cats, who do quickly regain use of their back legs…But after repeatedly – over and over again, having these episodes (which may worsen over time), the quality of life for the cat is increasingly being compromised, and it’s costly to treat repeatedly.
Other cats may – at least at first – only have a fast heartbeat….but even that may not be comfortable. Perhaps, it’s like feeling you are having a ‘panic attack’ all the time – we don’t know.
We do know cats, in general, don’t complain if they’re not feeling well – so it’s hard to tell.
There may be a familial and/or genetic link to HCM. Due to research funded by the Winn Feline Foundation’s Ricky Fund, a simple cheek swab can determine is a gene defect for HCM exists in Ragdoll and Maine Coon cats. Still, though – there is much to be learned….much that we need to do to prevent suffering. Learn how you can help HERE.