If your little feline friend just doesn’t seem to have the strength to make it up the stairs anymore without being out of breath, you may have a more serious issue than just couch-potato-itis.
Heart disease doesn’t just strike people; it can also affect your cat. Cardiomyopathy is the most common type of feline heart disease.
The condition can cause fluid in the lungs and heart failure. The disease is genetic and found more commonly in the breeds like the American Short Hair, Maine Coon, Abyssinian, Ragdoll, Burmese and Himalayan; though it can be found in other and mixed breeds.
There are two types of cardiomyopathy: one in which the heart muscle can grow weak and dilated and the other where the heart muscle becomes thick, constricting blood flow.
Heart disease can have several different causes. It can be a genetic disease or the result of a taurine deficiency, hypertension, hyperthyroidism, an autoimmune disease, infection or toxin. When affected by this disease, the heart cannot maintain proper blood flow.
Common signs include weakness, labored breathing, panting, vomiting, collapse, pale mucous membranes (gums), because of lack of oxygen from poor circulation, and lack of appetite. The belly may bloat from fluid build up. Sometimes a cough may be present. A secondary problem related to poor circulation can cause a clot to form, which can lead to paralysis of the back legs. Heart disease can strike cats of any age.
Your cat’s veterinarian will make a diagnosis based on x-rays of the heart and lungs, electrocardiograms, echograms and/or blood tests.
Treatment includes special medications prescribed by the veterinarian, reduced stress (moderate temperatures for comfort) and diet change. Cats must be fed low-salt diets. Any treats or homemade food must also be low salt.
Your veterinarian may suggest prescription foods such as Hill’s Prescription Diet g/d Feline with reduced sodium (salt), added taurine (like all pet foods) and reduced phosphorus.
Dr. Martin Goldstein, author of “The Nature of Animal Healing,” Knopf, often recommends alternative therapies in addition to conventional medicine. He sometimes prescribes specific herbal preparations formulated with potassium. He also uses co-enzyme Q10 to help with enzyme functioning as well as vitamin E to strengthen and support the heart muscle. Because heart disease often leads to fluid accumulation in the cat’s body, he will sometimes prescribe a diuretic or an herbal diuretic. Dr. Goldstein also states that he found benefit with using the herb hawthorn berry.
It’s important to remember to contact your veterinarian immediately if your cat appears to have symptoms of heart disease. You should not attempt to supplement your cat in lieu of veterinary attention. Consult your veterinarian first before giving your cat any herbals or alternative therapies.