If caught early, heart disease in cats can be effectively managed, not only extending your cat’s life, but enhancing the overall quality of their life as well.
Heart disease in cats can be hard to diagnose. By the time visible symptoms actually crop up, irreversible damage may have already been done to your cat’s heart. For this reason, prevention of heart disease is truly the best medicine. Here are five simple steps you can take throughout your cat’s life to help keep their heart healthy and strong.
1. Regular Check-Ups
Going to the vet is expensive, and can be inconvenient. Those annually recommended visits can seem like a real hassle, and it’s easy to ignore if your cat seems healthy. Unfortunately, feline heart disease can wait underneath the surface for many months -- or even years -- until visible symptoms present. A regular annual veterinary checkup is the single best defense against feline heart disease.
Sometimes, a veterinarian can diagnose a heart problem simply by listening to your cat’s heartbeat through the stethoscope. A murmur of the heart can indicate heart disease; and different types of murmurs can indicate different heart conditions.
If caught early, your veterinarian can recommend courses of action to protect your cat’s heart from irreversible damage.
2. Pest Prevention
Heartworm is a parasite that lives in the blood vessels of an animal’s heart and lungs. The worm is transmitted through mosquito bites. While dogs are a more common host for this parasite than cats, cats can get heartworms. Heartworms can be devastating to a cat’s cardiovascular function, resulting in coughing and difficulty breathing, and can often be misdiagnosed as asthma or bronchitis, causing the problem to go untreated for even longer.
However, prevention of heartworm is incredibly simple. Common, monthly spot-on treatments like Heartgard for Cats is available through a prescription from your veterinarian. It kills the worms in the larval stage, before they’re able to develop into anything that might do considerable damage to your cat.
3. Take Symptoms Seriously
If your cat presents with unusual symptoms, like lethargy, rapid or strained breathing, a bloated belly, or purplish gums, do not hesitate to get them to a veterinarian.
Likewise, if your cat’s behavior or mood seems to change in a more subtle way, don’t be too quick to write it off as feline fickleness. You don’t want to go overboard with trips to the vet, but you don’t want to miss anything either. Don’t be afraid to get them checked out if you sense that something might be off. Noticeable mood changes can be a clear indication that your pet is not feeling well.
4. Breed Awareness
Certain cat breeds are more likely than others to develop heart disease. These breeds include Maine Coons, American Shorthairs, Ragdolls, and Persians. If your cat belongs to one of these breeds, get to know the signs and symptoms of heart disease in cats -- your awareness and vigilance could end up saving your cat’s life.
5. Taurine in the Diet
Most commercial cat foods now contain all the taurine your cat should need. If you do your own cat food preparation, or simply offer them raw meat, you may wish to add a taurine supplement to their meals.
Taurine is important to cardiovascular function. If there’s a deficit of this essential amino acid in your cat’s diet, it could ultimately cause dilated cardiomyopathy, or a weakening of the heart.
Sometimes Prevention is Impossible
Some heart conditions in cats are genetic, meaning they’re inherited from one or both parents and cannot be prevented. In these cases, a vigilant eye is essential to getting them treatment as soon as the malady begins to affect them.
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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.