Feline Cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy is a group of diseases that occur when a cat's heart muscle is abnormal, interfering with its ability to pump blood throughout the body. The cat with any of the types of advanced cardiomyopathy will often have difficulty breathing and become reluctant to exercise. Fluid may accumulate in the chest cavity and abdomen. Some cats may cough and produce clear and, in severe cases, bloody fluid. The condition that is diagnosed during a thorough exam of the heart. Unlike the situation with humans, the problem is not a result of clogged arteries," says Robert Goldstein, D.V.M. "Heart disease in pets has other causes, such as an infectious agent (bacterial or viral), a run-down or stressed immune system, a genetic defect, or poor quality nutrition. Unnecessary vaccines and exposure to environmental and chemical pollutants also contribute" 2. Patients with mild or moderate disease have the best chance to lead relatively normal life with the help of certain drugs that can help the heart pump more efficiently. In all cases, early detection is very important to the survival of the animal. Unfortunately, severe cases have poor prognosis 1.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy

This disease was common in cats before 1987, when it was discovered that the majority of cats suffering from it were deficient in the amino acid taurine. Since that time, most commercial cat foods have been supplemented with taurine, making dilated cardiomyopathy a rare diagnosis in cats.

Your cat may have difficulty breathing, seem lethargic and weak. At this stage of the disease, he will become very fragile and can easily die when stressed from excessive diagnostic or therapeutic manipulations. Paralysis of hind limbs is a common complication.3 Most cats have open-mouth breathing, rapid, shallow respiration that is aggravated by stress, and pale, cold footpads (indication of obstructed blood flow) 6.

Basic therapy is similar to that for dogs with dilated cardiomyopathy. Taurine supplementation is usually prescribed for all cats regardless of the status of taurine test. Cats that have dilated cardiomyopathy not related to taurine deficiency will either not respond to therapy or relapse after a transient improvement 3.

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Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the most common cardiac disease in cats. Your veterianarian may diagnose hypertrophic cardiomyopathy during a routine examination. Intermediate cardiomyopathy usually refers to cardiomyopathy that have features of both dilated and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, that is, fibrosis of the ventricular wall is present, but with normal contractile function 4. Age at the time of diagnosis ranges from 1 to 16 years, with a mean age 6 years. Males are predisposed. A familial association has been documented in Maine Coon cats. Cats with acute form of the disease may have no signs or suddenly become lethargic and weak 3. In some cases, vomiting and fainting mayoccur. In some cats, the only early clinical sign is partial paralysis of hindend 5.

Treatment and Prognosis

Therapy for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy includes diuretic drugs, supplemental oxygen, and cage rest. In an effort to slow heart rate, calcium channel blockers may be administered. Approximately 70% of cats diagnosed with heart failure die within 1 year of diagnosis. Sudden death may also occur 3.

Restrictive Cardiomyopathy

Restrictive cardiomyopathy is a variant of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and is considered a rare disease. It is characterized by thickening of the heart muscle and sac (fibrosis) and predominantly affects the left ventricle. The distortions in the mitral valve apparatus lead to congestive heart failure. Clinical signs of this disorder are similar to those seen in hypertrophic cardiomyopathy 3. The age variation is 8 months to 19 years. There is no breed or sex predisposition. Prognosis is guarded or poor for long-term survival 5.


  1. Your Cat: Simple New Secrets to a Longer, Stronger Life. Elizabeth Hodgkins
  2. Veterinarians Guide to Natural Remedies for Cats : Safe and Effective Alternative Treatments and Healing Techniques from the Nations Top Holistic Veterinarians. Martin Zucker
  3. Small animal internal medicine. Darcy H. Shaw, Sherri L. Ihle
  4. Geriatrics and gerontology of the dog and cat By Johnny D. Hoskins
  5. Radiographic interpretation for the small animal clinician. Jerry M. Owens, Darryl N. Biery
  6. Manual of small animal emergency and critical care medicine. Douglass K. Macintire, Kenneth J. Drobatz, Steve C. Haskins

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