Often heart disease is only identified during a clinical examination.
Heart disease in cats can have a number of different causes:
- it may be primary idiopathic (meaning no identifiable underlying cause)
- it may be secondary to other disease such as hyperthyroidism or acromegaly
- it may be hereditary especially in breeds such as Maine coons and ragdolls
- it may be congenital
- it may be related to a taurine deficient diet
The clinical signs of heart disease include:
- a heart murmur or rhythm abnormality found on clinical exam
- breathing difficulties due to congestive heart failure (fluid on the lungs)
- sudden onset back leg paralysis and pain due to a thromboembolism (blood clot in one of the major arteries).
Frustratingly, not all cats with heart disease will have a heart murmur or rhythm abnormality and not all cats with a heart murmur will have structural heart disease!
During an examination, the heart of a cat is auscultated and if any abnormalities are detected an ultrasound scan of the heart will be recommended to look at the structure of the heart to decide whether medication is needed.