Older cats often show subtle symptoms of heart problems that can go unnoticed until the problem is serious and potentially life threatening. So what causes heart failure in cats, what signs and symptoms should you look out for and what can your vet do to help? Read on for more information.
What is heart failure in cats and what causes it?
The term heart failure refers to any condition that prevents the cat's heart from working efficiently and pumping sufficient blood to the organs and tissues of the body. There are many reasons for feline heart failure, including
- arrhythmia (irregular heart beat)
- disease of the heart muscle or lining
- heart worms
- faulty heart valves
Signs and symptoms to look out for
The following are all symptomatic of heart failure in cats:
- difficulty breathing
- coughing or wheezing
- hind leg weakness, lameness or even paralysis
- lack of appetite
- weight gain due to fluid retention
If your cat shows any of these symptoms, it's extremely important that you take it to your vet as soon as possible.
Prognosis and treatment
Although the term 'heart failure' can sound frightening for owners, cats with heart conditions can still enjoy a long and happy life, provided the condition is diagnosed early and medical treatment is commenced promptly. Your vet will be able to prescribe drug therapy for your cat as appropriate to the underlying cause of the heart failure. Provided your pet does not suffer from any other serious health problems, it should be able to enjoy a normal life expectancy of 10 years plus.
In addition to ongoing drug therapy, there are some other special care measures that you can take to make your pet's life at home more comfortable. First of all, make sure that you don't miss any appointments at the vet clinic for check-ups. These check-ups will enable the vet to monitor the course of your cat's heart condition and moderate or change the drug therapy accordingly.
It's also extremely important that you provide as stress-free an environment as possible for your cat. For example, don't bring a new kitten or puppy into your home, and try to keep your pet's routine as regular as you can. Your cat will benefit from gentle exercise, and your vet will advise you on the form that this should take.
Always ensure that your cat has access to plenty of fresh, clean water. If your pet begins to drink more than usual, notify your vet straight away.
It's easy to miss the symptoms of heart failure in your cat, especially if it spends a lot of time out and about. Be vigilant, and always consult your vet without delay if you notice any of the aforementioned symptoms. Again, with the correct therapy and management of its heart condition, your cat can expect to live a long and happy life.