Heart disease is a major health problem for older people, and the same is true for older felines. An enlarged heart results from the thickening of the heart's walls, leading to congestive heart failure or hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. After Kitty's diagnosis, you might want to take him to a veterinary cardiologist.
Congestive Heart Failure
Congestive heart failure develops when the heart can't send the body sufficient blood, resulting in fluid buildup in the lungs, or congestion. Before it gets to that point, Kitty's heart walls become thicker, enlarging the heart. This condition might be genetic or result from high blood pressure, heartworm disease or thyroid issues. Any part of the heart can be involved in CHF. The most common reason for developing an enlarged heart and subsequent CHF in cats is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
According to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is characterized by thickening of the muscle tissue associated with the heart's left ventricle. This section of the heart pumps blood out through the aorta. Your vet can catch the condition at Kitty's annual checkup if she hears a murmur when listening to the heart with a stethoscope. She may order an ultrasound of Kitty's heart as well as an electrocardiogram. With these diagnostic tools, she can determine the heart muscle's thickness and blood flow efficiency, and detect the presence of blood clots.
Cats suffering from heart disease might experience breathing problems as well as become lethargic and listless. Cats with congestive heart failure might develop a constant cough because of fluid buildup in his lungs. Kitty might lose his appetite, become feverish or throw up. Sometimes a cat with cardiomyopathy can no longer move his hind legs. While the latter is an obvious veterinary red-alert, take Kitty to the vet if he displays any respiratory or eating problems. Felines are masters of hiding illness, so Kitty might not display any symptoms until the disease is quite far along.
Unfortunately, there's no cure for CHF. However, that doesn't mean that medication can't ease Kitty's symptoms and give him a good quality of life. Your vet might prescribe diuretics to get rid of fluid in Kitty's chest, or may prescribe other regimens. Medicinal beta-blockers slow the heart rate so blood has more time to flow to the heart. Calcium-channel blockers have similar effects. ACE inhibitors spur ventricle function.
- Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: Diagnosis: Heart Disease
- VetInfo: Feline Congestive Heart Failure
- Vetstreet: Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) in Cats
- Manhattan Cat Specialists: Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
- Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine: Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.