Feline bacterial endocarditis affects the valves and inner lining of a cat’s heart. It can be life-threatening if left untreated. Learn more about its causes, symptoms, and treatment.
Feline bacterial endocarditis is a serious infection of the inner lining of the heart (endocardium) and the heart valves. It is caused by bacteria that enter the bloodstream and travel to the heart, where they can attach to damaged areas and form clumps called vegetations. These vegetations can disrupt the normal flow of blood through the heart and cause damage to the heart valves, leading to heart failure and other serious complications.
In this article, we will discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatment of feline bacterial endocarditis.
Feline bacterial endocarditis is caused by bacteria that enter the bloodstream and travel to the heart, where they can attach to damaged areas of the heart and form vegetations. The most common bacteria that cause feline endocarditis are streptococci and staphylococci, although other bacteria can also be involved.
There are several ways that bacteria can enter a cat's bloodstream and cause endocarditis. These include:
Bites and scratches: Cats can get bites and scratches from fighting with other animals, which can introduce bacteria into the bloodstream.
Dental problems: Bacteria from infected teeth or gums can enter the bloodstream and travel to the heart.
Infections elsewhere in the body: Bacteria from infections in other parts of the body, such as the urinary tract or skin, can enter the bloodstream and travel to the heart.
Catheters and other medical procedures: Bacteria can enter the bloodstream through catheters and other medical procedures, such as surgery.
Not all cats with these risk factors will develop feline bacterial endocarditis. However, it is important to be aware of these potential causes and to seek medical attention if your cat is experiencing any symptoms of endocarditis.
Cats with feline bacterial endocarditis may have a range of clinical signs, depending on the severity of the infection and the extent of damage to the heart. Some common clinical signs of endocarditis in cats include:
Fever: Cats with endocarditis may have a fever, which can be accompanied by lethargy and a loss of appetite.
Breathing difficulties: Cats with endocarditis may have difficulty breathing, which can be due to fluid accumulation in the lungs (pulmonary edema).
Heart murmur: An abnormal sound that can be heard with a stethoscope; a heart murmur can indicate a problem with the cat’s heart.
Abnormal behavior: Cats with endocarditis may exhibit abnormal behavior, such as lethargy or restlessness.
Swelling: Cats with endocarditis may have swelling in the abdomen due to fluid accumulation (ascites).
You should know that not all cats with endocarditis will have all of these clinical signs, and the severity of the signs can vary. If you suspect that your cat may have endocarditis or any other heart problem, it is important to have them evaluated by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Feline bacterial endocarditis can be difficult to diagnose, as the clinical signs may be subtle and may be similar to those of other diseases. To diagnose endocarditis, a veterinarian will typically perform a physical examination and take a detailed medical history. They may also recommend one or more of the following diagnostic tests:
Blood tests: Blood tests can help to identify infection and determine the cat’s health.
Chest X-ray: An X-ray can help to visualize the heart and detect any abnormalities, such as fluid accumulation in the lungs.
Echocardiography: This test uses ultrasound to visualize the heart and assess its function.
Electrocardiography (ECG): An ECG can help to identify abnormal heart rhythms and other cardiac problems.
Biopsy: In some cases, a biopsy of the heart tissue may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis of endocarditis.
It is important to diagnose and treat feline endocarditis as soon as possible, as it can be a serious and potentially life-threatening condition. If your cat is experiencing any symptoms of endocarditis, it is important to have them evaluated by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Keep in mind that your cat might feel anxious while going to the vet or undergoing diagnostic tests when they are already unwell. It is a good idea to give your cat calming treats or bring their favorite toys to help them relax.
The treatment of feline bacterial endocarditis will depend on the severity of the infection and the extent of damage to the heart. In most cases, treatment will involve a combination of antibiotics to kill the bacteria causing the infection and supportive care to address any underlying issues.
Antibiotics: Antibiotics, such as amoxicillin, are the mainstay of treatment for feline bacterial endocarditis. The specific antibiotic used will depend on the type of bacteria causing the infection and the susceptibility of the bacteria to different antibiotics.
Supportive care: Cats with endocarditis may require supportive care to address any underlying issues, such as fluid accumulation in the lungs or swelling in the abdomen. This may include cat medications to manage heart failure, diuretics to remove excess fluid from the body, and oxygen therapy to help with breathing.
Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove vegetations from the heart or to repair damaged heart valves.
The treatment of feline bacterial endocarditis can be challenging and may require a long course of treatment. It is also important to follow up with a veterinarian regularly to monitor the cat's progress and make any necessary adjustments to the treatment plan.
The prognosis for cats with feline bacterial endocarditis depends on the severity of the infection and the extent of damage to the heart. Cats with mild to moderate endocarditis that receive prompt and appropriate treatment have a good chance of recovery. However, endocarditis can be a serious and potentially life-threatening condition, and cats with severe endocarditis may have a poorer prognosis.
The key to a good outcome is early diagnosis and treatment. It is important to have your cat evaluated by a veterinarian as soon as possible if you suspect that it may have endocarditis or any other heart problem.
With appropriate treatment, many cats with endocarditis can go on to lead normal lives. However, it is important to follow up with a veterinarian regularly to monitor the cat's progress and make any necessary adjustments to the treatment plan.