Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: June 28, 2023 by Crystal Uys

Cat blood tests

Feline heart disease is far more common than most cat guardians realize. One in six cats can be born with or develop heart disease later in life, and it can strike any breed of cat at any age.  What makes feline heart disease very challenging is the fact that cats rarely show the warning signs that are typical for heart disease, such as shortness of breath, exercise intolerance, coughing or weakness until the disease is quite advanced.

How is heart disease detected?

This is yet another reason why regular, at least annual, veterinary check ups are so important. When vets listen to your cat’s heart, what they’re listening for is a murmur. Not every murmur is an indicator of heart disease, but it definitely requires further diagnostics, such as an ECG, or electrocardiogram, chest x-rays, and a cardiac ultrasound. These tests will show changes to the size and shape of the heart, whether there is fluid present in the chest, and abnormalities of the heart valves.  A cardiac ultrasound can actually determine the degree of heart disease, not just the presence of it.

proBNT test helps detect heart disease earlier

Now there’s another tool that helps veterinarians diagnose heart disease, and even identify cats who might be prone to heart disease. The proBNT blood test has been used in human medicine for years. BNP stands for B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) or N-terminal pro b-type natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP) BNP and NT-proBNP are substances that are produced in the heart and released when the heart is stretched and working hard to pump blood.

The proBNT test is a simple blood test that only requires a small sample of blood. It can be performed in the clinic or sent out to a reference lab.H

Veterinarian doctors analyzing blood samples of cat in laboratory under microscope
Image Credit: Kzenon, Shutterstock

When should the proBNT test be performed?

To establish a baseline in healthy cats. Even if your cat doesn’t have a heart murmur, the test can serve as a baseline to compare future tests as your cat gets older.

To test cats who are considered at risk for heart disease based on breed or history.

To monitor treatment for cats who already have heart disease. NT-proBNT is the most stable cardiac marker, and follow up tests can assists vets in determining and adjusting treatment plans.

As a pre-surgical test. 10-15% of cats develop heart disease without presenting with a heart murmur or arrythmia. Running a proBNT test as part of a pre-anesthetic panel provides extra peace of mind.

Featured Image Credit: PRESSLAB, Shutterstock

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10 Comments on proBNT Blood Test Can Detect Heart Disease Early

  1. Thanks for information. this is so amazing for those who don’t know much about pets like me. Thank you for sharing this. I will share it to my Pet group.

  2. Bixby, is one of my who is a yearly visitor to a cardiologist for his heart condition: moderately severe hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. He is on 3 different meds to keep him alive, and naturally, I couldn’t get health insurance for him. I have never heard a word about having either of these tests run. I don’t believe that it is negligence on his part that these were never mentioned. I do believe that it was negligence by my regular vet for never saying a word, especially considering that one of my other cats had cardiomyopathy as well. But I am also willing to bet that those tests will cost upwards of $700 to have run and that shelters are not going to be able to pay for screening.
    While I agree that almost any diagnostic test that can lengthen the life of our felines is wonderful, it is also a curse, because the cute healthy kitten that you though you brought home is now a special needs kitten, and that wasn’t what you had intended and may not be able to keep alive.

      • I just had the Bnt test and it was $180……which is not cheap but it is not close to 700…
        It is worth it to have this done. It just requires blood work.

  3. One of my cats was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy at the age of 2 after the vet heard a serious heart murmur. After Ekg and ultrasounds I was given a regime of meds and food, which the vets and I have adjusted through the years. Gracie turned 15 this year.!!!! The vets call her wonder cat and I know every day I still have her is a blessing. I believe a good diet is very important, watching sodium, fillers and added chemicals. Also one thing that was said to me after her original diagnoses, as I was crying my eyes out was “The most important thing is give her alot of love.”

    • That’s amazing, Alyce! I’m so glad Gracie is doing so well. And I love what was said to you about love being the most important thing.

  4. I lost my most favorite and most special cat to heart failure four years ago. I didn’t even know she had a problem until she started coughing a lot and I took her to the vet. I was told that cats don’t have good results with heart medication like dogs do and there really wasn’t much to do for them. They drained the fluid from around her heart and she spent the night at the clinic. But she was back to coughing a couple days later. We ended up having to put her to sleep because it wasn’t right to go through that procedure again. I guess technology has really changed in the last 4 years.

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