heart disease in cats

Heart Disease in Cats

Heart disease in cats is most commonly the result of a condition known as cardiomyopathy, which affects the ability of the heart's muscles to pump blood effectively. Read below to identify symptoms and understand more about the disease.

Cat With Heart Disease

Dear Simba,My girlfriend has a wonderful male cat named Homer,
also know affectionately as Holmes and Sir Homes-a-lot (mostly by me and for no reason other then a cat should have more then one name).

Homer was playing in a box that my girlfriend keeps her plastic bags in a couple of days ago. He got his head through one of the handles and went ballistic. He started running around the apartment howling and spraying, until I cornered him and got the bag off him. He did not allow anyone to go near him after the incident, and would growl and hiss if we got too close or moved too much. He hurt his hind paw and was bleeding for a few minutes. He also nicked the bottom of one of my toes. Our vet said that unless his toe swelled up or kept bleeding we did not need to bring him in.
Ever since the incident he has been either affectionate or very aggressive…to the point of chasing me. He allows himself to be petted, but sometimes he does not want you in the same room. He becomes aggressive when my girlfriend is washing dishes (she was washing dishes when the incident happened) and he also gets aggressive when he hears the crinkling plastic bags. He has a level 4 heart murmur, and a year ago, when my girlfriend was having troubles, he liked off a lot of hair from his left side.

We live in a small apartment. We do not like being hissed at and attacked, and we are worried that he might get so excited that he has a heart attack. Is there anything we can do to stop his aggression towards us and fear of the sound of dishes being washed? Tyler

Dear Tyler,
It certainly sounds as though Homer has had a very difficult time. My biggest concern is about his heart murmur.

As you know, murmurs occur when there is turbulence to the normal flow of blood through the chambers of the heart. This is usually due to a problem in a heart valve. When a valve is thickened or damaged and unable to close fully, some of the blood escapes around the valve. A vet can hear a squishing sound, which confirms that blood is leaking out of the heart valves during contraction. Most vets rate heart murmurs on a scale of 1 to 6, with 6 being the more serious. If your vet has not already placed Homer on a treatment plan, it may not be a bad idea to begin treatment. Many vets treat heart murmurs with tiny doses of aspirin (do not administer yourself without the guidance of a vet, improper dosing can be fatal) and prescription medication. Some herbs that Holisticat recommends are:

  • Convallaria majalis (lily of the valley): increases heart action and regulates heart rate.
  • Strophanthus hispidus: for heart weakness due to valve problems (murmurs)
As for his behavioral problems, I assume you have heard of anti-anxiety medications for cats & dogs. These medicines have been known to work wonders with emotionally distraught cats. Talk to your vet about this to see if can help Homer be a nice kitty. Keep me posted. Simba

Check out Attacking People for more information on feline aggression.

Dear Simba,
Cats love to adopt us. We have 3 adult females and 2 males who are 7-months-old (they are offspring of the one of the females), in addition to a new kitten, Blacky, that is about 2-months-old. All are outside cats. One of the males has recently dropped a lot of weight. He went from a plump to bony. He is constantly in need of attention. I noticed 2 soft lumps in his stomach area a couple days ago, yesterday hehad one stiff lump. I have been giving him canned food to get him to eat. I worry that the new kitten may have contractible disease. However, she and her sister (adopted out a couple weeks ago) are chubby, piglets, and are very playful! Since the cats adopt us, we do not keep a vet budget for them. I know that Blacky's sibling was diagnosed with a heart murmur. Blacky's pet

Dear Blacky's Pet,
You are very fortunate to be the recipient of so much feline affection! You are right in worrying for the cat that has lost weight. Weight loss can be associated with many ailments. If it is accompanied by bad breath it could possible signal diabetes, kidney disease and liver disease. One thing to consider also is Cardiomyopathy, which is more common in male cats and produces irregular heart activity like fast heart rates, a heart murmur, and/or a gallop rhythm (an extra heart sound). This is a treatable condition, but if left unchecked can result in congestive heart failure or in blood clotting in the aorta. Clotting in the aorta causes paralysis in the hind legs because blood cannot get past the blockage. Both these conditions can cause death.

Symptoms of Cardiomyopathy:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid respiration
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of energy
  • Weakness or paralysis in the hind legs
Obviously there are other possible causes. Please check out the following for information: If possible, make a trip to a low-cost-clinic to have the kitty checked out. You may be able to get treatment for free as part of the free neuter and release programs available. Keep me posted. Simba

Sadly my 18-month-old 1/4 Persian. Owen, passed away on Xmas Eve, very suddenly. He was fine Thursday evening but had difficulty breathing on Friday morning and he come and got his mum and dad up at 6am. We took him to the vets at 7am and he sadly passed away at 0830, the vet said it was pulmeryanisea? I would like to know a little more about it. The vet said that it was a condition where the lungs fill up with fluid very quickly, and humans can get it. Simba, Could you offer any more info on this? Kindest Regards, Sandra A

Dear Sandra A,
So very sorry to hear about Owen. It is very dear how you took him to the vet right away. You did what you could.

I suspect that your vet meant to say pulmonary edema, which is a condition where fluid accumulates in the lung tissue. This condition is a symptom of a more serious ailments. One of the leading causes of pulmonary edema and and 'sudden' death among young cats is Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. This disease produces irregular heart activity such as a fast heart rate, a heart murmur, and/or a gallop rhythm (an extra heart sound). What happens is that the irregular activity causes the ventricular walls of the heart to become stiff. This then causes clogging which causes blood to back up into the vessels of the lungs which then leads to congestive heart failure (pulmonary edema or pleural effusion). Heartworms cause similar things to happen but do so by blocking the arteries. Adult heartworms that die are carried to the lungs by the pumping action of the heart, because a cat's arteries are small, the worms cause clogging.

It is important to know that when your vet said humans "can get it" he likely meant that humans can suffer from the condition of pulmonary edema / congestive heart failure, but I very much doubt that he meant that these are contagious...they are not. I hope this helps. Your Pal, Simba

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