A Silent Disease: Cardiomyopathy in Cats

brown tabby cat sitting on gray couch

A Silent Disease: Cardiomyopathy in Cats

Understanding Cardiomyopathy in Cats

Cardiomyopathy in cats encompasses various cardiac conditions affecting the heart muscles and function. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) stands as the most prevalent cardiac disease diagnosed in cats, characterized by thickening of the heart muscle, particularly affecting the left ventricle. While it can affect cats of any age, breed, or gender, certain breeds, like Maine Coons, Ragdolls, and Bengals, appear more predisposed. The causes of HCM may have a genetic component, though the exact inheritance mode remains unclear, as it often appears within specific feline bloodlines.


Cardiomyopathy is a Silent Disease

This thickening of the heart muscle in cardiomyopathy can impair the heart’s ability to pump blood efficiently, leading to complications such as diastolic dysfunction, left ventricular outflow tract obstruction (LVOTO), and susceptibility to arrhythmias. Notably, many affected cats may not exhibit discernible physical exam findings during routine veterinary assessments, particularly in the early stages of cardiomyopathy. Cats, known for masking signs of illness, might not present overt symptoms during routine exams, complicating the diagnosis of cardiomyopathy.


How Is Cardiomyopathy Diagnosed?

Due to potential inconclusive physical exam findings, additional diagnostic tools like echocardiography (ultrasound of the heart) are vital for accurately detecting cardiomyopathy in cats. Echocardiography allows visualization of thickened heart muscle walls, aiding in diagnosing the condition, even when no visible abnormalities are apparent during routine examinations. Understanding these limitations underscores the importance of advanced diagnostic tools, especially in predisposed breeds or cats displaying subtle signs of potential cardiac issues, enabling early detection and effective management of cardiomyopathy.


N-terminal pro B-type natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP) serves as an increasingly utilized biomarker in veterinary cardiology, particularly for diagnosing and managing feline heart disease. Released by the heart muscle in response to cardiac stress or strain, NT-proBNP levels in a cat’s blood can indicate increased heart workload or impaired function. Measurement of NT-proBNP aids veterinarians in diagnosing, monitoring, and managing various cardiac conditions in cats, especially when physical exam findings are inconclusive. Elevated NT-proBNP levels suggest heart disease, but it’s important to consider non-cardiac factors that can also influence these levels, such as kidney disease or stress.


The Importance of Early Diagnosis and Regular Monitoring

Regular monitoring of NT-proBNP levels allows veterinarians to track changes in a cat’s heart condition over time, assessing treatment effectiveness and disease progression. NT-proBNP testing stands as a valuable addition to diagnostic tools, contributing to accurate diagnoses, improved management strategies, and better care for cats with cardiac diseases as advancements in veterinary cardiology continue to evolve.


Understanding and diagnosing heart disease in cats, particularly cardiomyopathy, represent significant challenges due to the elusive nature of symptoms, especially in the early stages. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), the most prevalent feline cardiac condition, underscores this challenge, affecting various breeds without evident physical exam findings in many cases. 


Utilizing advanced diagnostic tools such as echocardiography and leveraging biomarkers like N-terminal pro B-type natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP) are pivotal for accurate detection and monitoring. NT-proBNP, a key biomarker, offers critical insights into a cat’s cardiac status, aiding veterinarians in diagnosing, managing, and tracking heart disease. Despite the complexities, advancements in veterinary cardiology continue to enhance our understanding and approach, emphasizing the importance of early detection, proactive monitoring, and tailored management strategies for improving the quality of care for cats with cardiac conditions.


Heart Condition Diagnosis & Treatment for Cats in Las Vegas

At Animal Cardiology Specialists of Nevada, our Board-Certified Veterinary Cardiologist™ is experienced in diagnosing and treating a wide range of heart conditions in cats. If you have any concerns about your pet’s heart health, contact us today to make an appointment.



Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (1/19/2024). Photo by Erik-Jan Leusink on Unsplash