Heart Murmur In Cats: What You Need To Know
A vet can uncover a heart murmur in cats during routine examinations. While it may cause immediate concern among owners, it’s often benign and disappears after some time in most cases.
Multiple catalysts can contribute to these murmurs’ appearance. Depending on the cause, there are several treatment avenues owners can explore to resolve this issue.
What Is A Heart Murmur, And Why Do Cats Have Them?
A heart murmur is an unusual heart sound, usually detected by a stethoscope. It occurs when the blood is turbulent as it flows through the heart during the heartbeat’s normal cycle. It sounds like an extra ‘’whooshing’’ noise.
Upon closer examination, the noise is graded on a scale ranging from level one to six, depending on its intensity. However, it’s important to note that the murmur’s loudness doesn’t signify a more significant problem since it varies widely between cats.
Various factors can contribute to a feline heart murmur. While some turn out to be harmless, others do require closer attention.
Different Causes Of Heart Murmurs In Cats
A heart murmur can result from various factors, some of which include:
Physiologic Heart Murmur
After a detailed examination carried out by the vet, it’s possible in some cases that the cat doesn’t have any illnesses even if a heart murmur is present. We call these types of murmurs ‘’innocent’’ or ‘’physiologic’’. This diagnosis implies that the condition doesn’t negatively impact the animal and is generally low intensity with no other symptoms present.
This occurrence is more common in young kittens, especially those who are going through a growth spurt. It usually disappears once they are around five months of age. While it may be benign, it’s still recommended to monitor it, especially in older or overweight felines - just in case it develops into something more serious.
Various heart issues in cats can also cause heart murmurs, especially if the cat is born with an existing heart defect, such as patent ductus arteriosus, pulmonic stenosis, or muscle disease that causes an abnormal heart function.
It’s also possible that the cat might have gotten the condition later in life, with some pedigree breeds such as Ragdolls and Maine Coons being more susceptible to heart issues.
Other Extracardiac Conditions
In some cases, heart murmurs also occur because of extracardiac conditions that can unfold when your cat is pregnant, exhibits a fever or infection, or suffers from obesity.
Other conditions include:
- Hypertension: This occurs when the cat's arterial blood pressure is continually higher than average, affecting many bodily systems such as the heart, nervous system, and kidneys
- Anemia: Caused by a low red blood cell count, and the most common symptoms of anemia include pale gums, lethargy, and low stamina
- Enlarged Thyroid Gland: Hyperthyroidism also affects felines and may cause a heart murmur in older cats. Increased production of thyroid hormones from an enlarged gland in the animal’s neck is the cause behind this condition
- Hypoproteinemia: This disease causes severe protein loss in felines, which may contribute to other heart issues
How Can A Heart Murmur Be Diagnosed?
While the traditional way of detecting a murmur would involve using a stethoscope, there are other methods a vet can employ to diagnose your cat, such as:
- Checking the blood pressure: Hypertension can occur at any point during your pet’s life and is a significant cause of heart disease in cats
- Physical checkup: A thorough physical examination enables the vet to determine if the animal is suffering from any pain or discomfort, especially surrounding its heart
- Ultrasound: Veterinarians can conduct a more detailed analysis with an echocardiogram or an ultrasound examination of the heart. These procedures evaluate the chambers, muscles, valves, and other structures
- Blood Test: If an extracardiac issue is detected, a blood sample can determine if illnesses such as anemia or hyperthyroidism are the cause of the murmur
The Proper Heart Murmur Treatment For Cats
If a vet detects a heart murmur, different treatment options are recommended depending on the severity of the diagnosis. For example, if the condition turns out to be minor, the best practice is close monitoring. Keep a careful watch for any further symptoms that could indicate a more severe problem.
In other cases, specialists may suggest surgery, a particular diet, or some other specialized treatment due to an underlying health issue. Since every cat is unique, the vet will discuss the available pet care options and prognosis with you.
To effectively manage health issues like this, getting cat insurance is highly recommended. A policy ensures financial preparation for any expensive treatment that might be required. Depending on the plan, diagnostics, including X-rays, hospitalization, blood testing, and specialist appointments, will be covered. Coverage may also extend to surgery in certain circumstances.
Cats can suffer from a heart murmur at any stage of life, especially when they are young. While it may cause worry among owners, it’s essential to recognize that most of the time, it turns out to be harmless or a cause of a sudden growth spurt.
Nevertheless, this condition should still be monitored, especially in older, pregnant, or overweight cats, to ensure it isn’t something more serious. Most importantly, opting for cat insurance will allow you to face these issues head-on while providing your pet with the care without breaking the bank.