Some cats with cardiomyopathy may not show visible symptoms at certain stages, but diagnosing and nipping this disease in the bud can help slow its progression. One of the ways to help reduce the signs of cardiomyopathy is to alter your cat's diet by limiting his sodium intake.
What Is Cardiomyopathy?
Cardiomyopathy is disease of the heart muscle. It causes heart enlargement and weakening, reduction of blood flow through the heart or thickening of the heart muscle. A cat may not display obvious symptoms, however visible symptoms include shortness of breath, reduced appetite, swelling or fatigue. A vet may diagnose cardiomyopathy through blood or urine tests, X-rays or other means and may listen to your cat's heart. If cardiomyopathy is diagnosed, she'll likely recommend several things including lowering sodium intake.
Potential Causes in Cats
Cardiomyopathy's cause is unknown in most cases, however a cat's past battle with viral disease or genetics may cause it. Maine coon cats and ragdoll cats appear to have genetic mutations, which may predispose them to the disease, although other breeds are vulnerable too. Deficiency of taurine, an amino acid that is vital for cats' health, can lead to dilation of the heart, while hyperthyroidism generally is connected with enlargement of the heart.
How Sodium Restriction Helps
Sodium restriction is beneficial for cats with cardiomyopathy. Sodium causes fluid retention, increasing the amount of blood the heart must pump. Also, when the heart can't pump the necessary blood volume, its chambers stretch in an attempt to hold more blood. However, over time that weakens the heart muscle walls. This triggers the kidneys to retain water and sodium, which accumulate in a cat's body. If this happens, a cat can progress into congestive heart failure. Limiting sodium may help slow the process.
Implementing Dietary Change
The first step is to look at your cat's food label to determine sodium level. Look for foods with a "no salt added" label. If you're feeding homemade, choose foods with no salt added. Although you want to get your cat off high sodium foods as soon as possible, make the change over a few weeks or so. This lets him get used to new foods and lets you monitor him for tummy upset or other problems.
Sarah Whitman's work has been featured in newspapers, magazines, websites and informational booklets. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in nutrition, and her projects feature nutrition and cooking, whole foods, supplements and organics. She also specializes in companion animal health, encouraging the use of whole foods, supplements and other holistic approaches to pet care.