heart disease

Feline Heart Disease: What You Need to Know

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Feline heart disease is far more common than most cat guardians realize, and it can strike any breed of cat at any age. What makes feline heart disease so challenging is the fact that cats rarely show the typical warning signs such as shortness of breath, exercise intolerance, coughing or weakness until the disease is quite advanced.Continue Reading

proBNT Blood Test Can Detect Heart Disease Early

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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.Continue Reading

Heart Murmurs in Cats

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Heart murmurs in cats are often detected during a routine physical exam by listening to the heart with a stethoscope. A disturbance in the blood flow produces a “whooshing” sound or another noise in addition to the heartbeat.Continue Reading

Morris Animal Foundation Study Helps Cats With Blood Clots

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Guest post by Katie Friedson on behalf of Morris Animal Foundation

Blood clots are a potentially deadly complication of heart disease. These clots can form when changes in the shape of the heart walls cause blood to move through the heart in an abnormal flow pattern, leaving stagnant spots were coagulation can occur. The vast majority of these clots lodge at the very end of the aorta, the biggest artery in the body, where it branches off to supply the rear legs and tail. When this happens, the affected cat will be literally fine one second and paralyzed the next. The pain is excruciating. This is a life-threatening crisis with a very poor prognosis for survival. It is a frightening scenario for any cat guardian.

It is estimated that between 200,000 and 600,000 cats develop blood clots every year. Only one third will survive the first blood clot, Continue Reading

Feline Hyperthyroidism: What You Need to Know

 feline_hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is a common disease that typically affects middle-aged and older cats.  It is caused by an excess production of thyroid hormones, which are produced by the thyroid gland, located inside the cat’s neck. Thyroid hormones affect nearly all organs, which is why thyroid disease can sometimes cause secondary problems such as hypertension, heart and kidney disease.

Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis

For a comprehensive overview on what causes hyperthyroidism, what the symptoms are, and how it is diagnosed and treated, read Hyperthyroidism in Cats.

Treatment Options

Currently, there are three treatment options for hyperthyroidism in cats:Continue Reading

State of Pet Health Report identifies the five most common cat diseases

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Do you think you know the five most common cat diseases? The findings in Banfield Pet Hospital’s State of Pet Health 2012 Report may surprise you.

The report captured and analyzed data from nearly 430,000 cats in 43 states over a period of five years. The driving force behind the study was a commitment to preventive care and early diagnosis. In addition to collecting medical data, the report also identified pet owner perceptions. For this part of the report, Banfield polled more than 1,000 cat owners in the United States.

The report also captured date from more than 2 million dogs. This discrepancy in cat vs. dog numbers highlights the prevalent trend that dogs get far more attention when it comes to medical and health studies than cats do. According to pet journalist Steve Dale, for every dollar devoted to cat health research, five to ten dollars are devoted to feline research.

The Banfield report foundContinue Reading

Renowned pet journalist’s special cat inspired fund to find solution to feline heart disease

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Steve Dale is one of the most dedicated champions of cats, cat health and cat behavior you’ll ever encounter. He is one of the co-founders of the CATalyst Council, a member of the board of directors of the Winn Feline Foundation, the American Humane Association, and the Tree House Humane Society, a cat shelter in Chicago. This pet expert, writer, radio and tv personality and cat lover extraordinaire is passionate about cats’ health and happiness.

Steve’s passion for cat health extends into many areas, but one particularly close to his heart, no pun intended, is feline heart disease, specifically, feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or HCM. HCM is the most common form of heart disease in cats. It is also the number one killer of cats between the ages of 1 and 10, and, according to Steve, could well be the number one cause of death in cats overall.

At a recent symposium hosted by the Winn Feline Foundation, a leader in funding cat health research projects,Continue Reading

Feline Heartworm Disease

Most people think of heartworm disease as a problem that affects only dogs, but even though cats are more resistant hosts to heartworms, and they typically have fewer and smaller worms than dogs with a shorter lifespan, it is considered a more serious threat in cats and can lead to significant pulmonary damage and even sudden death.

What causes heartworm disease?

Heartworm disease is caused by a parasite that is carried by mosquitoes, and cats become infected when a mosquito bites into a cat for a blood meal and deposits heartworm larvae into the cat’s bloodstream.  These larvae migrate and mature through several lifestages into adult worms.  At about 3-4 months, they usually settle into the arteries and blood vessels of the cat’s lungs, where they continue to mature into adult worms for another 4-5 months.  Worms do not have to develop into adults to cause symptoms.

Which cats can be affected?

While outdoor cats are more susceptible, even indoor cats can be affected (all it takes is one mosquito bite).  Studies have shown infection rates as high as 10-14% in endemic areas.

What are the clinical signs of heartworm infection?

Symptoms can be non-specific and are often similar to those of other feline diseases.  Affected cats may exhibit general signs of illness such as intermittent vomiting, lack of appetite, coughing, and asthma-like signs such as difficulty breathing or wheezing.  Some cats may show acute symptoms, often related to the organs where the adult worms are thriving.  Cats with an acute onset of symptoms may die quickly without allowing sufficient time for diagnosis or treatment.

How is heartworm disease diagnosed?

Heartworm disease in cats is much harder to diagnose than in dogs, once again proving the old adage that cats are not small dogs.  Physical examination will often be non-specific.  Further diagnostics may include x-rays, echocardiogram, and blood testing.   Diagnostics have limitations, and sometimes, even a negative test cannot rule out infection.

How is heartworm disease treated?

Currently, there are no medications approved in the United States for treatment of feline heartworm disease.  Cats who don’t show any clinical signs will often simply be monitored periodically and given time for a spontaneous cure.  Monitoring through x-rays every 6-12 months may be all that is needed.  If there is evidence of the disease in the lungs or blood vessels, treatment is generally focused on supportive care, sometimes using gradually decreasing doses of prednisone, a steroid.  Cats with severe manifestation of infection may require additional supportive care such as intravenous fluids, oxygen therapy, antibiotics, cardiovascular drugs, and restricted activity through cage confinement.

Can heartworm disease be prevented?

Currently, there are four heartworm preventive products approved for use in cats:  Heartguard for Cats (Merial), Revolution (Pfizer), and Advantage Multi for Cats (Bayer).  Heartguard is taken orally, Revolution and Advantage are topical products.  All of these products come with known side-effects, and deciding whether to use them for your cat will require an informed risk assessment in conjunction with your veterinarian.   It is recommended that cats are tested for antibodies and antigens prior to beginning use of these preventatives.  Never give heartworm or any other parasite prevention product for dogs to cats.

As with all parasites, it is believed that a healthy immune system makes cats more resistant to them.  A healthy diet is key to a healthy immune system.  Feeding a species-appropriate grain-free canned or raw diet may help prevent heartworms and other parasites.

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Feline Heart Disease

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Buckley was diagnosed with heart disease in February of 2007 and succumbed to the disease in November of 2008, so this is a topic close to my heart.   A check up prior to dental surgery revealed a heart murmur, and a subsequent cardiac ultrasound showed that she had restrictive cardiomyopathy.  As a result, I’ve experienced the challenges of caring for a cat with heart disease firsthand.

Feline heart disease is far more common than most cat owners realize, 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.

Diagnosis

For many cat owners, the first time they even learn that their cat has heart disease is during a regular check up, when their veterinarian may discover a heart 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.

There are three types of feline heart disease.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

HCM is the most common form of feline heart disease.   The walls of the heart are thickened, reducing the amount of blood pumped out with each beat. As a result, the heart has to work harder.  These changes in the heart can lead to leakage at the valves and development of a murmur. As the disease progresses, the heart can become so thickened that it cannot pump blood adequately.  This usually results in fluid accumulation in the lungs.  Typically, the age of onset is young adulthood, although it has been diagnosed in cats as young as six months old.  It is most common in middle-aged male cats, but can be seen in either gender.  There appears to be a genetic component as some breeds, especially Maine Coons, Ragdolls, Persians and American Shorthairs, seem to be predisposed to this condition.  HCM is the most treatable form of heart disease.

Dilated cardiomyopathy

DCM presents with an enlarged heart chamber and thinned heart walls, which means that the weakened heart cannot pump efficiently.  This can cause fluid accumulation in the lungs and/or chest (similar to congestive heart failure in humans).  This form of heart disease has become less common, because research a few years ago showed that a deficiency of taurine in feline diets was one of the main causes.  Since then, most commercially manufactured diets for cats have been formulated with taurine.

Restrictive cardiomyopathy

RCM is a less common type of heart disease in cats. It is more difficult to detect, as many cats will have near normal echocardiograms, but their heart walls seem hardened and sometimes even form scar tissue.  As a result, the heart becomes less efficient at pumping blood.  This form of heart disease has a very poor prognosis.

Treatment

Treatment of feline heart disease depends on the type of disease diagnosed and the severity of the condition.  Therapy is geared toward supporting the strength of heart contraction and reducing fluid build up.  Many of the medications used to treat feline heart disease, such as betablockers, diuretics, calcium channel blockers and vasodilators are the same medications used in the management of human heart disease.  Dietary management may be part of the treatment.

Blood Clots

Blood clots are a potentially deadly complication of heart disease. These clots can form when changes in the shape of the heart walls cause blood to move through the heart in an abnormal flow pattern, leaving stagnant spots were coagulation can occur. The vast majority of these clots lodge at the very end of the aorta, the biggest artery in the body, where it branches off to supply the rear legs and tail. When this happens, the affected cat will be literally fine one second and paralyzed the next. The pain is excruciating. This is a life-threatening crisis with a very poor prognosis for survival. It is a frightening scenario for any cat owner to contemplate.  Medications such as aspirin or Plavix can help thin the blood to prevent clotting, but are not without side effects.

The outlook for a cat suffering from heart disease depends on many factors:  age, form and severity of the disease, other health issues, and more.  As with most diseases, early detection and intervention can be key.

Photo by John Seidman, Flickr Creative Commons