Feline Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy – The Silent Disease

By Dr. Tracy Appelbaum, Managing Veterinarian

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a form of heart disease that can occur in cats of any age. It is defined as the abnormal thickening of the walls of the heart with the left ventricle being most commonly affected. These changes allow less space for blood in the heart which can then cause clots. While certain breeds, such as the Maine Coon, Persians, Himalayan and Ragdoll are most commonly affected we can also see this disease in your common Domestic Short Hair. It is important for cat owners to be knowledgeable about this topic because this disease often goes undetected.

Most cats are often asymptomatic for this disease and it can be missed on routine veterinary exams. Many cats will not have a noticeable heart murmur or arrhythmia and by the time they are showing clinical signs like difficulty breathing they are already in heart failure. Luckily, there are several routine screening tests that can be performed to try to identify HCM early. Although there is no cure for HCM, early diagnosis is key to improving your cat’s quality of life and decreasing the chances of other complications.

Some of the most common tests to diagnose HCM are inexpensive and can be completed during a routine visit to your local veterinarian. Radiographs of the chest, blood pressure monitoring and an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) can be used to evaluate your pet’s cardiac size and function. There are now even specific blood tests, such as the NT-proBNP that can help identify cats without any obvious symptoms within just a few short minutes.

The veterinarians at Rocky Gorge Animal Hospital want to make sure as many of our feline patients are screened for HCM as possible. Please feel free to call Rocky Gorge or fill out our online form to set up an appointment with your primary care veterinarian. The sooner we diagnose this disease in your pet the sooner treatment can be initiated to keep your pet as comfortable as possible.

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