Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is one of the most commonly encountered cardiac health issues of cats. Its causes remain unknown to this day, although some breeds are more likely to develop it or be born with it.
But what clinical signs does it cause? How is it diagnosed and treated? What is the prognosis for a cat with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy? We’re answering all these questions and more in the following paragraphs, so keep on reading!
What Is Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy in Cats?
HCM is a condition that leads to the thickening of the heart muscle walls, which makes the organ lose some of its efficiency.
Some breeds have a higher likelihood of suffering from this health problem, and they are listed below:
When a cat’s heart is not as effective as it used to be, it can cause a variety of health complications in other body areas (especially the lungs), or it can lead to other cardiac issues such as congestive heart failure and thrombosis, especially inside the heart.
As you can imagine, these complications can be fatal, so it is of utmost importance that you take your feline friend to the vet clinic at least once or twice a year for check-ups, especially if she’s one of the breeds we’ve mentioned above. Diagnosing the condition early also means getting early treatment, so you can effectively save your pet’s life by getting veterinary assistance at the right time.
Symptoms of HCM in Cats
Since cats aren’t the best when it comes to exhibiting any signs of illness, sometimes it can be very challenging for pet parents to tell whether something is wrong or not. However, most cats that have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy will show some of the following symptoms (or all):
- Lack of appetite for food and water
- Hiding or seclusion
- Difficulty breathing
- Low resistance to exercise
- A reluctance to play or engage in any type of physical activity
- Limb paralysis (if your cat gets a clot that blocks out the blood flow in a specific body area)
Worst of all, cats that have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and they haven’t been diagnosed have a significant risk of dying suddenly.
How is HCM Diagnosed and Treated?
When you take your feline friend to the animal hospital, the vet will first listen to her heart beating, assess her general health status, and collect some samples for blood tests such as a CBC or blood chemistry.
Following this, the veterinarian is likely to recommend that your cat is performed an imaging test on, whether an x-ray or an echocardiography. The x-ray is particularly helpful for assessing just what damage the disease has done to the cat’s lungs and also to rule out pleural effusion.
Other cats might suffer from secondary health problems such as hypertension or hyperthyroidism, which can cause similar symptoms but should be ruled out. Fortunately, the imaging diagnostic tests that we mentioned are quite effective and accurate, so they will allow your vet to correctly diagnose your cat.
We’d also like to note that some genetic tests exist these days, and they can be performed on kittens so that their owners know whether they are predisposed to HCM later on in life — this can be extremely helpful for getting early treatment.
By the way, in terms of treatment, you are probably going to be disappointed, but none of the therapies currently available can stop the progression of the disease or get your cat’s heart to be completely healthy again.
However, the medications that the vet can administer can at least minimize any lung congestion, control the heart rate, as well as prevent any blood clots from forming — and all of these can effectively increase your cat’s life expectancy.
A universal prognosis for all cats with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy does not exist. Some might be diagnosed in the incipient form of the disease, which means that they might get early treatment.
Others, by contrast, could be diagnosed very late, so no matter the amount of effort that the vet will put into saving their lives, they could still die, especially if they are old and have a number of other chronic health problems besides HCM.
It’s also worth noting that hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a progressive condition, which means that without any treatment, it will undoubtedly cause other complications (thrombosis, respiratory issues due to lung health issues, congestive heart failure, and more).
Your cat’s heart is an extremely important organ and when it is damaged, it could affect your entire cat’s health and life. This is why taking your pet to regular check-ups is essential, especially if she’s a Maine Coon, Persian, Ragdoll, or any other such breed.
We’d also like to add that some cardiac health issues are genetically transmitted in humans, too, so you can get your cat tested in her first months of life if you want to do your best to keep her happy and healthy for as long as possible.