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Early intervention is important for people with heart disease and it’s just as important for your cats too.


Studies have shown that as many as one in six cats have heart disease, even though most appear to be perfectly healthy. Heart disease affects all breeds of cats and is not just a disease of older animals. Some breeds are at a higher risk of developing heart disease. These breeds include Persians, Siamese, Rag Dolls, Main Coon, American shorthair and Sphinx.


The most common form of heart disease in cats is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This is a disease where the muscle of the heart becomes thickened, making it harder for the heart to pump blood around the body.


The concerning thing about heart disease in cats is that they can have significant heart disease without displaying any clinical signs. These clinical signs, if present can be ambiguous. You may notice changes in your cat’s behavior. They may be less interactive with the family and appear more reclusive. A reduction in weight and appetite may also be evident. A more specific sign is labored or open mouthed breathing.


A regular check up at the vet is the first step in diagnosis of heart disease. On physical exam your vet may be able to hear a heart murmur or an abnormal heart rhythm with a stethoscope. Some studies have shown that up to 13% of cats have significant heart disease but will not have any clinical signs that a vet can detect on physical exam.  Fortunately a new blood test is now available that will help to detect these silent cases. This test indicates the amount of stretch or stress in the heart muscle fibers. If this blood test result is high or the vet is suspicious of heart disease they will recommend further testing such as an ultrasound of the heart, blood tests, and blood pressure check.


Although there is no cure for heart disease in cats there are medications available that may delay the onset of clinical signs, prevent blood clots and then improve quality of life once any clinical signs have appeared.

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