If your vet detects a heart murmur when examining Kitty, don't panic. Feline heart murmurs result from various causes. It may be nothing at all, but it could indicate disease of the heart muscle, or cardiomyopathy. Your vet might conduct additional tests to get to the bottom of it.
If your cat has a heart murmur, that basically means the vet detected an abnormal sound while examining his heart via stethoscope. Your vet listens for how loud the murmur is, its length, where it's heard on the chest and when it occurs in the heart's beating cycle. Most murmurs occur when the heart contracts as it pumps out blood. If your vet thinks the murmur warrants followup, she might recommend blood testing, X-rays or an ultrasound to determine the problem.
One thing the vet looks at is Kitty's overall physical condition. If an otherwise healthy cat has a mild heart murmur, it may not be cause for concern. If Kitty experiences breathing difficulties, seems tired or depressed, or has lost weight for no apparent reason, cardiac or other disease may be the cause. Tell your vet if Kitty has lost his appetite or changed his behavior in any way.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy occurs when Kitty's heart walls thicken, weakening the organ as the chambers become smaller. Unlike some other feline cardiac diseases, it often has a genetic basis and affects younger cats. One of the first signs of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is often a heart murmur. Dilated cardiomyopathy has a much quicker onset, with heart failure in only a few days. While heart murmurs are also a symptom of dilated cardiomyopathy, with this disease it will be much more obvious something is seriously wrong with your cat. He'll have trouble breathing and might collapse.
If hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is caught early, your vet can prescribe drugs for Kitty along with dietary changes to combat the disease. Drugs might include diuretics, beta blockers or other medications commonly prescribed for human cardiac patients. Kitty might require a salt-restricted diet or a commercial cardiac cat food. Dilated cardiomyopathy treatment includes diuretics to get rid of fluid surrounding the heart. This disease can be caused by lack of taurine in the diet, but that's unlikely if you feed Kitty a commercial wet or dry cat food.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
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.