Silent Killer

Cardiomyopathy can take a cat's life without warning. Learn to recognize the signs of this disease.

Posted: Tue Dec 17 00:00:00 PST 2002

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Feline cardiomyopathy is a truly insidious heart disease. It is seen more often in purebreds than in mixed-breed cats. Often no previous history of distress exists, and the owner discovers his or her apparently healthy cat dead with no outward appearance of the cause. On postmortem examination, the heart is found to have undergone significant changes, expecially thickening of the heart muscle. This causes loss of elasticity, making it nearly impossible for the heart to expand and contract.

A cat may show few or no physical signs of the disease until it is in an advanced state. Occasionally the disease is discovered when a concerned owner notices a change in a cat's breathing or activity level. Sometimes the heart sounds are audibly abnormal when checked with a stethoscope. Chest radiographs and an echocardiogram are the best diagnostic tools, but they are not usually included in an annual physical examination because of the cost. For purebred cats, however, at least an ECG would be advisable during checkups. Early diagnosis would allow time for management of the disease.

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Reader Comments

Donna    Sedona, AZ

2/18/2011 5:00:16 PM

We just lost our 9 yr old Siamese Tiki the other day. He has been healthy, active, eating, shiny - right up to the night before when he had his usual play time. No symptoms. At 7:30 am he got up with the other cat for breakfast but then didn't want to eat, next drooling, then pooped on the rug and went under the bed. We coaxed him out and his back legs weren't working well, breathing became labored. Rushed to the vet where he body temp was only 90 and breathing quickly declined. Vet gave him a steroid injection and fluid, but he died in less than an hour. Terrible! We had no hint. Vet thinks he threw the clot, etc.

janet    bethlehem, PA

5/14/2010 4:32:40 AM

good article thanks

sherri    dayton, OH

9/14/2009 9:15:55 AM

if only i'd known some of this info earlier, my Sulu would still be with me.

Amanda    Brevard, NC

1/30/2009 10:29:53 PM

Thanks for the advice. Maybe people will be more aware of the disease now.

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