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Heart Disease in Cats: A Silent Killer

Heart disease in cats is a life-threatening medical condition. Tragically, in some cats it can be a silent killer.  Unlike most dogs with heart disease, many cats with heart disease show no symptoms: no cough, no lethargy and no decline in appetite. Some may show subtle signs of increased respiratory rate (greater than 30 breathes per minute at rest) or greater abdominal effort with each breathe but these changes frequently go unnoticed by even the most observant cat owner. In the midst of a cardiac crisis, these pets will have labored breathing, pale mucous membranes, profound weakness, severe pain, and /or may experience numbness in their limbs.

Who is at risk for developing heart disease?
Any aged cat and breed is at risk for developing heart disease. Some cats are born with congenital heart disease so all kittens should be checked before they reach 6 months of age. Adult cats should receive and exam at least once a year to check their heart health.

How does one diagnose heart disease in cats BEFORE they have a crisis?
There are a number of tests that can be performed. One is  using a stethoscope, your veterinarian may detect a heart murmur (an audible turbulence of blood flow in the heart) or an irregular rhythm of heartbeats. Regrettably, the absence of a heart murmur does NOT mean heart disease DOES NOT exist.

Although we cannot cure heart disease in cats today, it can be medically managed to extend your pet’s quality of life. Please don’t forget to schedule your pet’s annual physical examination appointment so your cat can live its’ best life.