Heart murmur in cats, believed to be uncommon, is actually a prevalent health issue. Learn the possible implications if a feline has this condition and if it is fatal. Find important information including causes, symptoms, and treatment of heart murmur in cats here.
What is heart murmur in cats?
Heart murmur is also known as heart arrhythmia. It is a cardiac disorder that is a result of the heart’s unstable and turbulent blood flow.
In a normal heart cycle, heartbeats create a sound in unison to the closing of heart valves. However, heart murmurs in cats cause a peculiar swishing sound whilst the heartbeats.
What causes heart murmurs in cats?
What does it mean when a cat has a heart murmur? Rather than a disease, this condition is considered a sign of an underlying cardiac issue. But heart murmur does not necessarily mean that heart disease is present.
Heart murmur in cats can either be a harmless phenomenon or a deadly one. Thus, it can be quite confusing and distressing for cat owners.
To get a clearer understanding, let’s know the most common causes of heart murmur in cats:
1. Quick Body Development and Stress
A physiologic or innocent heart murmur is commonly observed in fast-growing young kittens. Generally, it begins when they reach around 6–8 weeks old. This type of heart murmur does not have a negative effect on a cat’s health.
Can stress cause a heart murmur in cats? Yes, heart murmurs are also common in stressed cats. Fortunately, it is classified as physiologic and usually doesn’t need vet intervention.
Can a heart murmur go away on its own? In the case of a physiologic heart murmur, yes, it will go away on its own. For young kittens, once they turn about 4–5 months of age, this condition will disappear.
Innocent heart murmurs in stressed cats will stop when they have calmed down and their heart rate turns back to normal.
2. Structural Heart Disease
4 chambers can be found in the heart: the right atrium, right ventricle, left atrium, and left ventricle. If these areas developed abnormally, it can cause structural heart disease.
Their malformation can result in disastrous consequences to the heart cycle. They can dangerously stretch the heart muscles, turn veins and arteries narrow, and abnormally expand heart chambers.
As a result, it disrupts the blood flow and causes heart murmurs in cats.
Congenital heart defects and acquired heart diseases fit this category. The most common types are atrial septal defect (ASD), hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), and ventricular septal defect (VSD).
3. Extracardiac Problems
Extracardiac problems are health issues that occur outside the cardiac system. Diseases belonging to this group are anaemia and hypoproteinemia. These can trigger heart murmur in cats.
Other prevalent causes are malnutrition, parasitic infections, obesity, pregnancy, and fever. These conditions can badly disrupt the heart’s function. They may also badly affect the nutrient supply essential for a healthy heart cycle such as iron.
Hence, cats with these health issues may experience heart murmurs.
How serious is a heart murmur in a cat?
The seriousness of heart murmur in cats depends on the underlying cause of its presence. If it was brought on by body growth and stress, it is usually harmless. In most cases, it does not require treatment.
However, the occurrence of heart murmurs in cats due to heart problems and other illnesses calls for a vet check-up and diagnosis.
Will a heart murmur kill my cat? No, but the underlying health issues causing the heart murmurs can. Without proper treatment, these diseases will not only complicate your cat’s cardiovascular health but also her overall well-being.
Other ailments may arise including high blood pressure, paralysis, and in severe cases, congestive heart failure and death. Early detection of heart murmurs goes a long way as it greatly increases your cat’s survival.
Are heart murmurs common in cats?
Several studies show that heart murmur is significantly common in cats. Serious heart diseases are also observed in cats with heart murmurs.
In one research, 22 out of 103 (21%) healthy cats have a heart murmur. Out of these 22 cats, 6 were diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM).
Another study shows that heart murmur is quite common in cats than it was believed to be. According to the results:
- The prevalence of heart murmur in 780 healthy cats is 40.8%.
- 70.4% of which is considered a functional type of heart murmur.
- The prevalence of HCM in these heart murmurs is 14.7%.
- The congenital disease has a prevalence of 0.5%.
- The prevalence of other cardiomyopathies is 0.1%.
- The risk of HCM increases as cats age.
- Heart murmur in older cats indicating HCM is 17.9–42.6% higher.
Both sets of research show that detecting heart murmur is an important finding as it is highly linked to structural heart disease in cats.
Thus, diagnostic testing is recommended to affirm the presence of heart murmurs and detect possible cardiac problems.
What are the cat heart murmur symptoms?
Detecting clinically significant heart murmur in cats without an expert’s help is very tricky. Its symptoms can vary greatly from feline to feline. Some cats won’t even exhibit any signs at all.
Therefore, it is always good to be vigilant. Watch out for the following clinical signs of heart murmur in cats:
- Loss of energy
- Lack of appetite
- Excessive weight loss
- Paleness of gums
- Congested breathing
- Breathing difficulties
Although some cases of heart murmur in cats are not serious, it is would be safer to err on the side of caution. The presence of the aforementioned symptoms should prompt you to visit the vet for a proper diagnosis.
What does grading heart murmur in cats mean?
During diagnosis, the vet will perform heart murmur grading. In this diagnostic process, the vet listens to your cat’s heart using a stethoscope.
If they sense the presence of heart murmurs, they will gauge its loudness and intensity. The vet will also pinpoint how many areas in the heart the murmur can be heard.
What is a grade 2 heart murmur in cats? Heart murmurs are graded on a scale of 1 to 6. Grades 1–2 are considered low in loudness and intensity. These are often difficult to hear and maybe overlooked if not too careful.
On the other hand, Grades 5–6 indicate that the heart murmur in cats is extremely loud and intense. Moreover, it can be heard in several locations in the chest.
Note that the grade of the heart murmurs doesn’t directly correlate to the severity of heart disease in cats. It only implicates how turbulent the heart cycle is going.
It is possible for a cat with a grade 6 murmur to suffer from mild cardiovascular problems. On the other hand, a cat with a grade 1 heart murmur may possess a severe heart condition.
Heart murmur grading will help the vet determine the sole cause of your cat’s heart murmur. However, it is not reliable and accurate if used by itself. Other diagnostic tests should be carried out to obtain a precise result.
What are other diagnostic tests for heart murmur in cats?
As mentioned earlier, detecting heart murmur in cats is difficult, especially if it is low on the grading scale. Thus, the vet will need to run several tests to ensure that they can accurately pinpoint the cause.
Generally, cats with heart murmurs will undergo a physical examination and blood tests. They may also need blood pressure measurement, chest X-rays, and electrocardiography.
However, all these diagnostic tests must only be complementary to an echocardiogram. It is a cardiac ultrasound that allows a thorough examination of the affected cat’s heart condition.
An echocardiogram is a gold standard for precise and definitive diagnosis. This should be carried out by a board-certified veterinary cardiologist.
What can be done for a heart murmur in cats?
Treatment for heart murmur in cats relies on its underlying cause and the severity of the condition. For physiologic heart murmur, the vet will likely advise close supervision on your cat.
They may also recommend intermittent check-ups, which can span from a few weeks to a couple of months. These are precautionary measures to make sure that sudden complications won’t occur in your feline friend.
If the heart murmur in cats were due to illnesses, the vet may prescribe medications. For instance, cats with anaemia will be given food supplements.
Felines suffering from HCM will be provided with drugs to thin their blood and beta-blocker to alleviate other symptoms.
Heart murmur in cats brought on by congenital diseases often requires surgery. The type of surgical procedure will depend on the exact nature of the disease.
Cat heart murmur medication costs between £200 and £500; more if there is more complication. On the other hand, heart murmur in cats and surgery expenses go anywhere from £800 to £1,500.
As treatments for underlying causes of heart murmurs are expensive, getting pet insurance is a good idea to consider.
What is the life expectancy of a cat with a heart murmur?
The life expectancy of a cat with a heart murmur will depend on the underlying issue that caused this condition. Most cats with innocent murmurs normally live long happy lives.
Those that suffered from extracardiac health problems and structural heart diseases also have good chances of having prolonged lives. Mind that proper treatment should be provided to them for this to become possible.
For cats with severe health conditions, the prognosis may not look too good. Unless the vet finds a good treatment to improve their constitution.
Otherwise, their life expectancy will be greatly reduced as their sickness further debilitates their body. This heartbreaking outcome can be averted by taking precautionary measures.
Never skip regular vet check-ups, provide your cat healthy and balanced meals, and make your home a comfortable haven for her. These may be simple ways, but they are effective in keeping your feline friend healthy and happy.