Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Cats: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Diagnosis and Management of Dilated Cardiomyopathy In Cats

Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Cats: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment https://cdn.pixabay.com/photo/2017/08/23/08/33/cats-eyes-2671903_1280.jpg

The heart illness known as dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) can afflict both people and animals. Here, we break down how it affects cats and what can be done to manage it.

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a type of heart disease that affects both humans and animals. In cats, DCM is a serious condition that can lead to heart failure and even death if left untreated. It's crucial for pet owners to be aware of the warning signs and symptoms of DCM in cats and to seek emergency veterinarian care if they think their feline friend may be suffering. 

The causes, identification, and management of DCM in cats, as well as some advice for enhancing your cat's quality of life, are all covered in this article.


The exact causes of cat cardiomyopathy are not fully understood. However, research suggests that genetics may play a role in some cases, particularly in certain breeds such as Maine Coons and Ragdolls. 

Additionally, a deficiency of taurine, an amino acid that is essential for normal heart function, was identified as a cause of DCM in cats in the 1980s. Since then, taurine supplementation in commercial cat food has significantly reduced the incidence of taurine-related DCM. 

Other potential contributing factors to DCM in cats may include viral infections, inflammation, and certain medications. Additionally, it's possible that a mix of these elements will cause DCM to manifest.


Depending on the disease's severity and the specific cat, dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in cats can present with a variety of symptoms. Usual DCM symptoms in cats include:

  • Lethargy and weakness

  • Difficulty breathing or rapid breathing

  • Decreased appetite and weight loss

  • Coughing, particularly at night or after exercise

  • Fainting or collapsing

  • Swollen abdomen due to fluid buildup

  • Inability to tolerate exercise or physical activity

Clinical Diagnosis

In order to diagnose DCM in cats, a physical examination, a review of the patient's medical history, and diagnostic tests are frequently used. Common diagnostic procedures to confirm DCM in cats include the ones listed below:

  • Radiography (X-rays): This can be used to assess the size and form of the heart as well as detect any fluid buildup in the lungs.

  • Ultrasound-based echocardiography: This non-invasive procedure employs sound waves to create pictures of the size, structure, and operation of the heart. The most effective method for identifying DCM in cats is echocardiography.

  • Electrocardiography (ECG or EKG): This examination analyzes the electrical activity of the heart and can identify any irregularities in heartbeat or rhythm.

  • Blood tests: Blood tests may be used to assess the health of the cat as a whole and find any underlying disorders that might be responsible for the emergence of DCM.

If DCM is confirmed, the veterinarian may also recommend additional tests such as blood pressure monitoring, 24-hour Holter monitoring (a device that records the cat's heart activity over a period of 24 hours), and cardiac catheterization (a more invasive test that involves inserting a catheter into the heart to measure its function and evaluate blood flow).

Cardiomyopathy in Cats Treatment

Cat cardiomyopathy treatment varies based on the severity of the disease and the particular cat. In general, the objectives of therapy for DCM in cats include managing symptoms, reducing fluid accumulation, and enhancing heart function. The following are some typical DCM treatments for cats:

  • Medications: Various medications can be prescribed to help improve heart function, manage symptoms, and prevent complications. These may include diuretics to reduce fluid buildup, ACE inhibitors or beta-blockers to improve heart function, and anti-arrhythmic drugs to manage irregular heartbeats.

  • Taurine supplementation: If taurine insufficiency is the root cause of DCM, taurine supplementation may be advised. This may aid in enhancing heart performance and halting additional heart damage.

  • Diet: To minimize DCM symptoms and lessen fluid retention, a balanced, low-sodium diet may be advised. There may also be specialized cardiac diets on the market with foods that promote heart health.

  • Changes in lifestyle: To help treat DCM in cats, some lifestyle modifications may be advised, such as minimizing physical activity to lessen the stress on the heart and avoiding exposure to environmental pollutants that may be linked to heart disease.

  • Surgery: In some situations, surgery may be advised to fix any underlying structural issues with the heart or to implant a pacemaker to help control the heart's rhythm.

Can Feline DCM Be Prevented?

While it may not be possible to completely prevent cardiomyopathy in cats, there are some steps that cat owners can take to reduce the risk of their cats developing this condition:

  • Feeding a high-quality diet: A balanced diet that is appropriate for a cat's age and life stage can help to ensure that the cat receives all the necessary nutrients for heart health, including taurine.

  • Regular veterinarian examinations: Frequent veterinary examinations can aid in the early detection of any possible health problems, including heart disease.

  • Refraining from environmental toxins: Heart disease risk can be decreased by limiting exposure to pollutants like cigarette smoke.

  • Breed-specific screening: Breed-specific screening may be advised to identify early indications of cardiac disease in breeds that may be more susceptible to DCM, such as Maine Coons and Ragdolls.

  • Taking extra taurine: Taurine-related DCM can be avoided by giving supplements of taurine or commercial cat diets with added taurine.

While these precautions may help to lower the risk of DCM, it is crucial to keep in mind that there may still be additional variables that contribute to the occurrence of this disorder. As a result, it's crucial to collaborate closely with a vet in order to regularly check on a cat's heart health and identify any potential problems as soon as possible.

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