Heart disease in cats often remains undiagnosed until the heart fails – just like in humans. If we’re lucky a vet may become suspicious when a cat loses weight without any abnormalities in the annual blood tests.
A heart murmur in a cat may mean advanced heart disease – or it may mean nothing. Some cats have heart murmurs with no underlying disease. Other cats have perfectly normal sounding hearts and die of heart failure.
The most common form of heart disease is Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM). The walls of the heart thicken so that the volume of blood it can pump gets less and less.
Cats with Hyperthyroidism commonly have heart disease which is partially reversed when the hyperthyroidism is treated.
Echocardiography (or ultrasound) of the heart diagnoses the type of heart disease. An X-ray tells us if the lungs or the chest cavity are filling with fluid because heart is not pumping properly.
A special blood test called a ProBNP is sometimes run if a vet is worried that your cat might have heart disease and echocardiography is not available.
A cat with heart disease should be monitored with chest X-rays until fluid accumulation indicates that diuretics (fluids medication) are necessary. Once on diuretics we monitor electrolyte blood levels closely.