In the first place, heart disease may be seen as a disease of well-being, which does not apply to our most common pets, dogs and cats. In cats, it is instead primarily heredity, ie the genetic makeup, that determines which individuals will suffer from heart disease.
In cats, it is usually the heart muscle itself that suffers from thickening, so-called HCM (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy), with the risk of arrhythmias and heart failure as a result.
The symptoms that the pet owner may discover are primarily increased respiratory rate and decreased general condition. In cats, symptoms of heart failure can develop very quickly with marked breathing difficulties as a result and then it can be urgent to see a veterinarian.
Cats’ heart disease can remain undetected for a long time because most cats with heart disease do not have an audible wheezing sound.
To determine how advanced the heart disease is, an ultrasound examination with flow measurement is required, so-called echocardiography with Doppler. With this technique, the veterinarian can quickly determine if the heart is enlarged and if so, which of the four heart chambers is involved. The veterinarian can also see if any of the four valve groups are leaking and, if so, to what extent. It is also possible to read if the heart defect is a congenital malformation and if these can possibly be corrected surgically. With echocardiography, the veterinarian can determine the pressure conditions that exist between the heart chambers and the large vessels and whether heart failure treatment is necessary.
Electrocardiography (ECG) is recorded at the same time as the ultrasound examination. A 24-hour ECG with a Holter can also be used for diagnostics. Then the cat has a vest with a small ECG device on its back where all the cat’s heartbeats, about 100,000–150,000, are registered for 24 hours and later analyzed by one of AniCura’s veterinary cardiologists.
X-rays of the chest cavity are used in cardiac diagnostics primarily to determine if heart failure is present, but also to rule out or detect other lung changes.