Pectus excavatum is a hereditary disorder that is apparent immediately after birth. The primary indicator of this condition is a distinct "dent" deformity in the middle of your kitty's chest. Cats aren't the only species that can have this problem, as humans and dogs can suffer from it as well.
What is It?
Pectus excavatum is a latin phrase that literally means "sunken chest" or "hollow chest." When you see a kitten suffering from this condition, you will understand exactly why it is called this. The condition occurs when the central chest bone, called the sternum, and ribs grow in an unnatural way, creating a significant indentation in the cat's chest. It actually can be a little scary to see in person, but it is not necessarily as bad as it looks. Cats can survive for months or years with this type of deformity, although it does severely impact their quality of life.
The indentation caused by this deformity can lead to a host of health issues in your cat, so it is important to consult a veterinarian immediately if you think your kitten is suffering from this genetic defect. Cats and kittens with pectus excavatum maybe unwilling or unable to eat a substantial amount, causing them to lose weight and exhibit signs of bodily weakness. Lung diseases, including pneumonia, as well as difficulty breathing also are common symptoms, according to The Cat Clinic. Since the indentation severely limits the amount of space available in your cat's chest cavity, his heart also may have trouble maintaining regular circulation.
Looking at a kitten suffering from this condition can be a bit heart-stopping for some. After all, it looks like the cat's vital organs are practically bordering his skin. However, there is a not-so-gruesome surgical option for rectifying the problem. There are two types of surgery to treat the problem, one requires removal of the deformed bones while the other attempts to "pull" the bones back into position over time, according to Vet Surgery Central. The first option requires the surgeon to remove the bent bones and replace them with a graft. This surgery is taxing and more invasive, but produces quicker results. Alternatively, the vet can leave the bones in place and attach a solid cast to the skin above the sternum with sutures. The cast is molded into the desired shape of your cat's chest, so the pressure from the sutures slowly pulls the bones back into position. The second option is much less invasive, but may take longer to work and requires additional post-surgery care.
As with any surgery, there is some risk to your cat during and after the operation. Accidents during surgery can cause internal bleeding, the wound could get infected or your cat may have an adverse, or possibly fatal, reaction to the anesthetic. It's not pleasant to think about, but you always should keep a level head and consider all the possibilities when you submit an animal to surgery.
After Surgery Care
When you get the kitty home after surgery, keep him in a comfortable and stress-free environment. Limit his space to prevent excessive movements, which may hinder the healing process. If your kitty has a cast, he will need to keep it on for a month or two as ordered by the veterinarian. You also will need to give your cat regular doses of antibiotics as prescribed to combat any infections that might set in.
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.