Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy in Cats Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy in Cats

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy in Cats

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Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscles. In this article, we will discuss the various aspects of the disease in cats.

Cardiomyopathy is a condition that affects the heart, making it work less effectively. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 500 adult humans may have this condition. 

It can be caused by several things, including genetics and lifestyle choices. One of the most common types of cardiomyopathy in cats is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM).

In this article, we will take you through the symptoms, causes, and treatment options of HCM in cats.

What Is Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy in Cats

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a disease of the heart muscle. The normal heart muscle is thin, flexible, and able to pump blood effectively from the ventricles to the rest of the body. In HCM, this muscle becomes thickened and stiff, which makes it harder for blood to flow through.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy can occur at any age but tends to be more common in older cats. It's usually diagnosed after other causes have been ruled out and can lead to death if left untreated or undiagnosed.

In fact, according to Pet Health Network, feline cardiomyopathy is the most common cause of sudden death in cats.

What Are the Symptoms of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy in Cats

There are several potential symptoms that can indicate hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in cats. Some of the most common include:

  • Fainting

  • Shortness of breath

  • Trouble breathing, especially when lying down or after exercise

  • Weakness and lethargy (a lack of energy)

  • Pronounced difficulty with strenuous activity like climbing stairs or playing games

Other signs to watch out for include bluish discoloration in the gums and tongue, rapid heartbeat, and coughing.

What Causes Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy in Cats

According to the National Library of Medicine (NIH), feline cardiomyopathy is the most prevalent type of heart disease in adult domestic cats.

The exact cause of HCM in cats is not known. It's a genetic disease and can be passed down from parent to kitten.

It's also been linked to heart muscle disease and lack of blood supply to the heart. Other causes could be 

  • Overactive thyroid ( popular medication: methimazole for cats)

  • Heartworm infection ( popular medication: heartworm prevention)

  • Other diseases that affect the heart muscle itself or blood vessels in the chest area.

How Is Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Diagnosed in Cats

To diagnose hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, your veterinarian may recommend an echocardiogram and blood tests. These will help him, or her see the heart structures and measure the size of the chambers of your cat's heart. They can also reveal any signs of damage.

Next up is an ultrasound, which uses high-frequency sound waves to give your veterinarian a closer look at your cat's heart. This test can show if there are any abnormalities with the shape or size of the chambers, as well as blood flow through them.

If these tests aren't enough to confirm a diagnosis, a cardiac MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan may be recommended next. This is another type of imaging test that allows us to see inside your cat's body without having an invasive procedure done like surgery or endoscopy.

How Is Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Treated in Cats

There is no cure for HCM. Treatment focuses on managing symptoms, improving quality of life, and delaying the onset of heart failure. Pet medication may be used to slow down a cat's heart rate (via beta-blockers), reduce blood pressure (benazepril), and improve blood flow through the body (via calcium channel blockers).

Heart surgery may be used to remove part of an enlarged heart muscle if it restricts blood flow out of your cat's left ventricle or causes abnormal electrical activity within the organ. Your cat will require post-operative care and painkillers like Onsior for cats if he or she has to undergo surgery.

In some cases, a donor heart transplant may be necessary if there are no other options available due to complications such as poor overall health or other serious conditions unrelated to HCM.


As you can see, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a serious condition that affects your cat's heart and requires immediate treatment. Your veterinarian will most likely perform an echocardiogram to determine what type of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy your cat has and recommend treatment options. 

There are also pet medications available that may help slow down the progress of the disease and improve the quality of life for your feline friend.

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