Symptoms that include vomiting and paralyzed legs can result from physical trauma, such as a pelvic fracture or spinal injury, as well as neurological disease and tick paralysis. One common cause, however, does not originate from a cat’s neurological system. The alarming signs may instead come straight from her heart.
Heart Disease in Cats
Whether your cat has demonstrated signs of heart disease or your veterinarian simply detected a murmur or irregular heartbeat on her recent routine physical examination, he will likely pursue further diagnostics to rule out feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. HCM is the most commonly diagnosed heart disease in cats, characterized by thickened muscles within the heart. This muscle thickening reduces the space for blood to oxygenate and pump through the left ventricle and beyond to the rest of your cat’s body. Although certain breeds, such as Maine coons, are genetically predisposed to HCM, the exact cause is still unknown.
Symptoms of Cardiomyopathy
Symptoms of HCM include rapid respiration, panting and difficulty breathing. Your cat may also vomit or cough. She may seem sluggish and have a decrease in appetite accompanied by weight loss. Irregular heart rhythms can lead to fluid buildup in the chest or fainting. Another serious result is known as a thromboembolism, which occurs when a blood clot forms within the heart and is pumped to the branching point of the blood vessels that supply blood to the hindquarters. The clot lodges at this junction and cuts off blood supply and oxygen to the hind legs, causing paralysis.
The Importance of Prompt Diagnosis
The effects of HCM and the response to treatment vary with each cat. Some cats afflicted with HCM may go for years without showing any of these signs, while others can suffer from a painful thromboembolism or fall victim to sudden death. For this reason, any murmur or irregular heartbeat that is noted by your veterinarian should be investigated as per his recommendations. The most typical diagnostic test is the echocardiogram, which is a noninvasive ultrasound of the heart. Diagnosis of HCM before heart failure arises offers many cats the best chance at good quality of life with the use of medications to control the condition.
Your Cat’s Prognosis
A thromboembolism is painful and it is devastating to witness one in your cat. If your feline friend suffers a thromboembolism, teamwork between you and her veterinarian is the keystone in achieving the most favorable outcome. Although some cats who survive a thromboembolism will suffer a repeat episode, with proper care most cats can recover normal leg function. No matter when a definitive diagnosis of HCM is made by your veterinarian, your role as observer of your kitty’s overall condition and how she responds to prescribed medications are crucial for her survival.
- WebMD Pets: Healthy Cats Guide: Weakness and Paralysis in Cats
- The Merck Veterinary Manual: Overview of Tick Paralysis
- Manhattan Cat Specialists: Arterial Thromboembolism
- Manhattan Cat Specialists: Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
- Upstate Animal Medical Center: Pet Encyclopedia: Cardiomyopathy, Dilated Cardiomyopathy, Restrictive Cardiomyopathy, Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
- VeterinaryPartner.com: FATE (Feline Aortic Thromboembolism, or Saddle Thrombus)
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images