Heart Conditions

Disease Of The Heart Muscle “Cardiomyopathy In Felines”

Heart Health for cats

Felines have lots of similarities with humans as far as bodily functions are concerned. And today I thought to give a write up on cardiomyopathy in cats, a major ailment related to the four chambered organ called as the heart.

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Heart is one of the main organs without which life is impossible and its duty is to supply the life sustaining liquid “blood” to the entire body by pumping restlessly. In felines heart diseases are less common when compared to their canine friends but still a large number of felines visit the vet clinic regarding the same. Such problems were less common in the past but numbers are rising every passing year. Who is to be blamed? Are Life styles, diet patterns or something else responsible for this? Go ahead to know more about this disease.

What Is Cardiomyopathy?

It is normally described as “a disease that affects the heart muscle myocardium”. As you all know heart contains four chambers and if there occurs any structural abnormality in any of these then the condition is referred to as cardiomyopathy. The heart muscle myocardium becomes too thick or thin or weak or scarred leading to heart dysfunction. When the heart muscle structurally changes to any one of the above condition then the hearts capability to propel blood is messed up.

Is This A Primary Disease Or A Secondary Condition That Arises From Some Other Health Issue?

Feline cardiomyopathy is a primary disease in majority of the cases and the causes are yet to be discovered. But sometimes it may also occur as a secondary condition due to hyperthyroidism and high blood pressure.

Facts Of Cardiomyopathy In Felines

  • Males outnumber the females in this case.
  • Mostly seen in adult cats and common in breeds like Maine coons, ragdolls and American shorthair cats.

To Classify Cardiomyopathy There Are Three Types Mainly

  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – this is the most commonly seen form of cardiomyopathy. This condition mainly occurs as the result of the thickening of the left ventricle. During this condition the cat’s heart is unable to relax while filling with blood. So you can imagine the amount of pressure that gets build up inside the heart which can lead to congestive heart failure. In some cases a murmur of the heart can be felt while having hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
  • Restrictive cardiomyopathy – in this condition the inner lining of the ventricle gets messed up with scar tissues. Again the heart becomes incapable to relax while filling and draining out the blood.
  • Dilated cardiomyopathy – This is now a rarely seen condition and the cause of this condition are very well known unlike the above two conditions. This happens due to deficiency of an amino acid called as taurine. In this condition the left ventricle loses the ability to contract and the heart enlarges like a balloon. But cat owners can relax as this problem has now become history. Most of the cat foods are added with proper amounts of this amino acid to curb this issue.

What Are The Causes That Lead To This Condition Called As Cardiomyopathy?

To be frank medical field hasn’t been much successful in finding out the causes that lead to this condition in majority of the cases. But there are few known causes that seem to cause cardiomyopathy.

Lack Of Taurine

We discussed above that dilated cardiomyopathy is caused due to dietary deficiencies especially lack of a particular amino acid called as taurine. Those cats that ate generic foods like cat foods were found to have this problem in common. That is when the food manufacturers decided to add apt quantities of this amino acid in their products with periodical evaluations. Once a major cause of cardiomyopathy has now been tackled intelligently by providing healthy diets.


When the thyroxine hormone secretion becomes abnormal or over production occurs it leads to increase in the metabolic rate of the body. In such conditions there is a chance for blood pressure to spike up abnormally leading to enlargement of the heart muscles. High blood pressure can create havoc on the heart muscles by increasing their workload. Again generic foods like canned and processed food are to be blamed according to a section of experts. In the past cats used to eat raw and simple food but now they basically feed on processed foods or canned foods. And these foods contain high amounts of iodine which is the main reason behind an overactive thyroid. Well we can’t blame the cats but it is we humans who are the root cause for all troubles.


Cardiomyopathy has also been regarded as an inherited disease. It is commonly seen in American short hair breeds, ragdolls and Maine coon. This can be checked by a simple DNA test in which a particular gene is hunted for the test results.

Viral infections

Viral infections are the cause of dilated cardiomyopathy in present day cats and it causes inflammation in the heart; a condition called as myocarditis. It can also be caused by bacteria, fungi and protozoa which mainly affects the hearts muscular walls.

Lack of antioxidants

Even though it is not scientifically proved it is also said to be a major cause of cardiomyopathy in cats.

Symptoms Of Cardiomyopathy In Cats

Here are a few symptoms that can be seen in felines when suffering with cardiomyopathy

  • Heavy breathing
  • Lack of hunger or loss of appetite
  • Fluid accumulation in the abdomen which can be felt as a plump tummy
  • Skinny back where the bones can be seen easily
  • Weight loss
  • Coughing
  • Tiredness
  • Sudden death

These were the few visible symptoms but inside the cat’s body there are many complex situations being created. When the heart fails to do its job it causes the leakage of blood serum into small chambers of the lungs and into the pleura. This fluid accumulation in the lungs is called a plural effusion and it is really a life risking situation. In certain cases blood clots also form in the major arteries. When pleural effusion occurs breathing ability of the cat is disabled and it may lead to sudden death if not treated on time. Fluid thus accumulated can be drained out from the lungs but unfortunately chance of survival is very rare.

Diagnosis Of Cardiomyopathy In Cats

Vets do a number of tests and procedures to diagnose the problem. Chest X rays, echocardiograms, ECG and ultrasound images of the heart to understand the condition. Also thyroid tests are also carried out to find the possibility of hyperthyroidism in cats. Since there are mainly three types of cardiomyopathy it is necessary to find out the type and stage of the ailment to carry on with treatment.

What’s The Cat’s Lifespan When Suffering From The Cardiomyopathy?

Even though there are different treatment methods available it is really difficult to save a cat or extend its life for some years. Cats suffering from cardiac diseases tend to live for shorter periods say for months. When pleural effusion or blood clots occurs in most of the cases sudden death is the result as cats hide most of the illness until its late and clearly visible for the owner.

Treatments For Cardiomyopathy In Cats

In general there is no effective treatment available to cure this problem but there are drugs and alternatives that can alleviate the symptoms. Different approaches like iodine therapy, thyroid surgery and medications can be provided. If the heart condition is diagnosed at an early stage then the cat’s life can be prolonged with treatments and drugs.

Conclusion: Heart disease is complicated in felines and in most of the cases early diagnosis is the only way to save a cats life. If you find that your kitty is displaying any one of these symptoms then rush to the nearest vet clinic for further treatments.

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Originally posted 2016-04-18 04:07:26.

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