Heart murmurs can be serious business. Sometimes they are "innocent," or not life threatening, but they can also be a sign that something is wrong, and when it comes to the heart it is best not to take chances. Learn what types of treatment options are out there.
Hearing a heart murmur can be disconcerting, considering the array of possible causes and the varying levels of severity. Many times the tell-tale is nothing to worry about, but this sound can be a harbinger of dark clouds on the horizon. Considering the vital nature of the organ in question, it helps to know the myriad ways a cat's heart murmur can be treated.
Heart Murmurs Caused by Heart Disease
Many times, when a vet hears a heart murmur, what they are actually hearing is a symptom of another heart disease, which can receive any of a wide number of treatments, according to the type. For treating a heart murmur caused by a congenital or acquired heart disease, surgery may be needed to correct the problem. However, several different medications may be prescribed, depending on the specific condition causing the murmur, that can help alleviate that telltale.
Removing fluid from the lungs, diuretics are typically the first line of defense against heart disease.
Diuretics are a type of medication used to treat heart disease in cats.
Diuretics help treat heart disease in cats by helping the kidneys remove excess fluid from the bloodstream. This reduces the amount of fluid that can build up in your cat's lungs, which may cause shortness of breath or coughing.
Popular diuretics include:
For cats and dogs suffering from excess water retention
Rids the body of excess fluid
Effective means of balancing electrolytes
It can cause excessive urination and thirst
Inhibits the aldosterone hormone, which is released in excess during heart failure and is responsible for the retention of sodium and the excretion of potassium into the kidneys
Reduces fluid accumulation that occurs in some cases of heart disease
Side effects are typically mild and include dehydration, low blood sodium, high blood potassium, lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea.
As vasodilators, these drugs help expand blood vessels, helping ease the passage of blood through the heart and simplify its job.
ACE inhibitors help regulate your cat's blood pressure by blocking the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) from converting angiotensin I into angiotensin II. Angiotensin II is responsible for increasing the amount of water that's retained by the kidneys, which raises your cat's blood pressure. By blocking its production, ACE inhibitors prevent this increase in water retention and lower your cat's blood pressure.
Popular ACE inhibitors are:
Nutrients to help prevent cardiac disease
Eases stress on blood vessels
It causes low blood pressure, weakness, upset stomach, and kidney failure. If your cat experiences any of these side effects, consult a vet immediately.
Treats heart failure, high blood pressure, heart valve disease, and some forms of kidney disease
Dilates the veins and decreases fluid retention
Side effects are rare but include loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea
Typically the last resort because of the high risk of negative side effects. A popular positive inotrope is:
Treats congestive heart failure, heart rhythm disorders, and dilated cardiomyopathy
Affects the sodium and potassium content in your pet’s heart, reducing the strain
Side effects include decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, depression, lack of coordination, and weakness.
Extracardiac Heart Murmurs
Sometimes the heart murmur is a sign of something not directly related to the heart or extracardiac. Common extracardiac causes include anemia, hypoproteinemia, infections, fevers, pregnancy, or hyperthyroidism. To rid your pet of an extracardiac heart murmur like the ones listed above, the treatment should target the root cause. So, treating a heart murmur caused by anemia could be resolved by putting your cat on a high iron diet or a high protein diet in cases of hypoproteinemia. For high-protein diets, try the Purina Pro Plan cat food.
High-protein cat food is a good option for cats with kidney disease, urinary tract disorders, diabetes, and obesity. These conditions are common among cats and can lead to health problems if they aren't treated.
High-protein cat food is also beneficial for cats who have been diagnosed with cancer or hyperthyroidism. Cats in these situations may need to be put on a low-sodium diet to keep them from developing complications related to their condition. A high-protein diet can help control their sodium intake while still providing essential nutrients that will help keep them healthy.
Hyperthyroidism, or an overproduction of thyroid hormone, can be treated with drugs like:
An anti-thyroid tablet reduces the amount of thyroid hormone produced.
Side effects are rare, but can be serious, such as a decreased white blood cell count.
Infections, depending on their nature, can be treated with any of several antibiotics that may be effective against whatever strain of bacteria may be causing the murmur.
Worm-Related Heart Murmurs
A subcategory of extracardiac heart murmurs, and one that generally only affects young cats, is a major infestation of worms, such as roundworms, hookworms, ringworms, or heartworms, and can be treated with a cat dewormer. These infections can sometimes cause heart murmurs. These should be treated with your standard dewormer for cats. Some of these are available over the counter. Some of the most popular options are:
Tapeworm dewormer for cats are available over the counter
Unhooks tapeworm from your cat's intestinal wall so they can be digested and killed
Safe on cats six weeks and older
Other than these, there are many other dewormers like the Revolution for Cats and the Revolution Plus for Cats. There is also Bravecto for Cats that you can use as a dewormer.
Feeding your cat a balanced and healthy diet also helps deal with heart problems. Try the Blue Buffalo Cat food for this. The Blue Wilderness Cat Food can provide the nutrition your cat needs to keep heart problems at bay. However, never give cats raw meat since it can intensify their heart problems in them. You can also try using interactive cat toys to play with your cat. This will help reduce their stress and keep them entertained, which is good for their heart.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long will a cat live with a heart murmur?
The lifespan of a cat with a heart murmur can vary depending on the severity of the condition and whether it is being properly managed. A heart murmur is an abnormal sound heard during a physical examination that is caused by turbulent blood flow in the heart. The murmur itself is not a disease but rather a symptom of an underlying cardiac condition. If the underlying cardiac condition is mild and properly managed with medication, a cat with a heart murmur can live a relatively normal lifespan. However, if a cat with a heart murmur develops congestive heart failure (CHF), which is a condition where the heart is unable to pump blood effectively, its life expectancy can be significantly reduced. The estimate of 6 to 18 months is a common range given for cats with CHF, although it can vary depending on the severity of the condition and how well it is managed.
How do you treat a cat's heart murmur naturally?
It's important to note that a heart murmur is not a disease but rather a symptom of an underlying heart condition, so treating a heart murmur naturally will depend on addressing the underlying condition causing it. While there are no natural remedies that can cure a heart murmur, there are some natural strategies that can help support a cat's heart health and overall well-being, which can be used in conjunction with traditional veterinary treatment. Feeding your cat a balanced and nutritious diet can help support their overall health, including their heart health. A diet that is high in protein, moderate in fat, and low in carbohydrates is generally recommended for cats with heart conditions. Some supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids, taurine, and CoQ10, may also be beneficial for heart health. Regular exercise can help improve cardiovascular health and may help slow the progression of certain heart conditions. However, it's important to consult with a veterinarian before starting an exercise program for a cat with a heart murmur, as too much physical activity can be harmful. Reducing stress can help lower blood pressure and improve heart function. Some ways to reduce stress in cats include providing a calm and comfortable environment, regular playtime, and using pheromone products, such as Feliway, to promote relaxation.
What food is good for a cat's heart?
Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they require a diet that is high in protein to meet their nutritional needs. Protein is important for maintaining lean muscle mass, which is essential for heart health. Look for cat food that lists a high-quality protein source, such as chicken, turkey, or fish, as the first ingredient. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fatty fish, can help reduce inflammation and improve heart health. Look for cat foods that contain fish oil or other sources of omega-3 fatty acids, such as flaxseed. Taurine is an essential amino acid that is important for heart health in cats. It's found naturally in meat and organs, so make sure your cat's food contains a good source of high-quality animal protein. L-carnitine is an amino acid that can help support heart health by improving energy production and reducing oxidative stress. It's found naturally in meat, so look for cat foods that contain high-quality animal protein. Coenzyme Q10 is a natural antioxidant that can help support heart health. While cats are able to produce CoQ10 on their own, supplementing their diet with foods that contain this nutrient, such as fatty fish and organ meats, may be beneficial for heart health.
Can a heart murmur repair itself?
Innocent heart murmurs are benign murmurs that do not require treatment, as they are not associated with underlying heart disease. These types of murmurs are common in cats and may be heard during routine veterinary examinations. If a heart murmur is caused by an underlying condition such as a fever or an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), treating the underlying condition may resolve the murmur. In some cases, the murmur may go away on its own once the underlying condition is treated, while in other cases, the murmur may persist even after treatment. However, not all heart murmurs will repair themselves, and some may worsen over time. Regular veterinary check-ups, including cardiac examinations, are important for monitoring any changes in your cat's heart health and for identifying and managing any underlying heart conditions that may be causing the heart murmur.