Galloping is fine for horses, but bad for cats. There should be two heart sounds for each beat of your cat's heart. If there's a third or fourth sound in a cycle, then he has a gallop rhythm. Gallop heart sounds are early indicators of serious health problems.
Types and Classification
In the medical field, individual heart sounds are noted separately. S1 and S2 are abbreviations for the standard first and second sound. Irregular gallop rhythms have additional sounds that are noted as S3 and S4. In many cases, the third and fourth sounds are separated portions of S1 or S2. The first two sounds can split into separate sounds. Irregular heart sounds might not be coming from the heart at all. The expansion and contraction of your kitty's chest can produce diaphragmatic flutter. This noise mingles with the beating of your cat's heart muscle, so it sounds like a gallop rhythm, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is one of several health conditions that produce gallop sounds. It develops from a physical defect in your cat's heart and is particularly common in the large Maine Coon breed, according to Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, also can produce a temporary gallop rhythm. The irregular beat from hypertension can actually cause permanent damage if it goes on for a long time without treatment. Parasites, infections and several chronic conditions can also force your pet's heart to work harder, eventually causing damage to the muscle.
If your vet surprised you with the news that your cat has an irregular heartbeat, it's not your fault for not noticing. Gallop sounds can start well before a serious, symptom-causing issue develops. This is why annual checkups are critical for keeping your cat healthy. Your vet can detect an irregular heartbeat by listening to your pet's heart with a stethoscope. More than half of cats diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy showed a gallop rhythm, but had no other symptoms, according to Manhattan Cat Specialists. Discovering a heart problem early can save your cat's life.
Prognosis and Treatment
It's hard to feel happy knowing something is wrong with your cat's heart. It's very possible for your cat to survive though, especially if he was diagnosed before the condition started showing symptoms. Not all heart problems are an immediate danger, so your cat might live for years even if his condition is untreatable. There are no general rules that apply to heart failure in cats. Surgical treatment might be an option, but some cases of heart failure are irreparable. Talk to your vet to determine the best course of action for keeping your pet happy and healthy. Depending on the situation, medication might slow the degradation of his heart condition or alleviate some of the discomfort.
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.
Quentin Coleman has written for various publications, including All Pet News and Safe to Work Australia. He spent more tan 10 years nursing kittens, treating sick animals and domesticating semi-feral cats for a local animal shelter. He graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor's degree in journalism.