Your own heart might race at times, either from excitement or fear. If Kitty's heart is galloping, it's likely the symptom of a disease. Your vet conducts tests to get at the bottom of what causing Kitty's heart to giddy-up when it should be lub-dubbing, the normal heart sound.
Gallop Heart Sounds
According to The Merck Veterinary Manual, a gallop heart sound "is the presence of the first and second heart sounds accompanied by an interceding sound that is either an accentuated third or fourth heart sound, or both," when your vet puts her stethoscope to Kitty's chest. In other words, Kitty's heartbeat sounds like a four-beat gallop rather than the way it should, with two beats.
A galloping heart rhythm is one clue that Kitty suffers from cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle. Cats experience different types of cardiomyopathy, with a gallop heart rhythm a symptom of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and dilated cardiomyopathy. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or thickening of the heart muscle, often occurs in younger cats, usually leading to heart failure. Dilated cardiomyopathy causes the opposite effect, thinning of the heart muscle and generally affects older felines. With both types, there's a danger of Kitty developing blood clots.
Hyperthyroidism is pretty common in older cats. It occurs when the thyroid overproduces hormones. While the vet might hear a gallop heart rhythm when examining Kitty, the symptoms you're most likely to notice include weight loss even though your cat is constantly hungry; increased drinking and peeing; difficulty breathing and diarrhea and vomiting. Your vet can feel the enlargement of your cat's thyroid gland. If Kitty is suffering from hyperthyroidism rather than kidney or liver disease, which have similar symptoms, he probably has a benign tumor on his thyroid gland.
To find out why your cat's heart has a gallop rhythm, your vet ultrasounds your cat's heart to examine its physical condition and functioning. If she finds evidence of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, she can prescribe medication to treat congestive heart failure if it has gotten to that stage. Unfortunately, there is no cure for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. If your vet finds evidence of dilated cardiomyopathy, which is much rarer, she might investigate Kitty's diet. Dilated cardiomyopathy often occurs in cats consuming insufficient amount of the essential amino acid taurine, which is supplemented in most commercial cat foods. If your vet suspects hyperthyroidism, she'll perform blood tests to check the level of thyroid in his system. She can prescribe a drug such as methimazole to treat the condition, or you can take Kitty to a specialist for radioactive iodine treatment. The radioactive iodine destroys the part of the thyroid gland causing the issue, but Kitty must stay at the facility for up to two weeks until he is no longer emitting radiation.
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.
- Manhattan Cat Specialists: Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
- Merck Veterinary Manual: Physical Examination
- VetInfo: An Overview of Common Cat Heart Diseases
- VetInfo: Diagnosing Feline Hyperthyroidism
- Long Beach Animal Hospital: Hyperthyroid
- Veterinary Partner: Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
- Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: Cardiomyopathy
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.