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Feline Cardiomyopathy is a group of conditions that share the fact that the heart muscle is abnormal. Three forms have been recognized: Dilative, intermediate and hypertrophic. All three of these conditions are potentially fatal.
Of the three forms of cardiomyopathy, only was has a clearly identified cause. Dilative cardiomyopathy is due to dietary taurine deficiency. Once this was recognized, taurine was added to virtually all commercial cat foods and this from of cardiomyopathy is all but unheard of today. The restrictive and hypertrophic forms of cardiomyopathy are less well understood. Certain conditions such as hypertension and hyperthyroidism have been associated with thickened, hypertrophied heart muscles, but true primary idiopathic hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is poorly understood. There does appear to be some genetic issues involved, as the disease tends to be more prominent in certain breeds, notably the Maine Coon Cat.
ardiomyopathies can strike a cat at any age and quite often will affect cats in their prime. Because of the sedentary nature of cats, heart disease is often unrecognized until it is severe. Typical symptoms include lethargy and exaggerated respiration. By the time these symptoms develop, the degree of heart failure is significant. Sometimes the earliest sign noted is the development of a heart murmur detected at your cat's annual examination. Such a finding should never be dismissed as minor and should be pursued with appropriate diagnostics. For information on the mechanics of heart failure, see our Heart Disease document on this web site.
Cardiomyopathy can be difficult to diagnose without the proper tools. If cardiomyopathy is suspected, it is imperative that chest radiographs be taken. Even these may not confirm a diagnosis and most often an echocardiogram is necessary to definitively identify the disease and to classify it as hypertrophic or restrictive. If your veterinarian does not have the ability to perform an echocardiogram on your cat, it would be wise to follow up with a specialist who can perform this procedure.
There is no cure for hypertrophic or restrictive Cardiomyopathies, but we may prolong the quality life of the cat for quite some time. If diagnosed early and treated appropriately cats may live as long as 3 years after diagnosis. Treatment is directed at helping the heart function easier.
Medications must be given on a regular basis at the appropriate times and may include:
Diuretics to remove excess fluid
Medications to dilate the arterial walls making it easier for the blood to flow
Regular monitoring by you veterinarian is essential in assuring that your cat's medications are doing their job. Dosages and medications may need to be adjusted periodically as your cat's condition changes.
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