Evaluating Heart Size On Radiographs For Dogs And Cats
We’ve all had patients that could not afford a complete cardiac workup for their coughing dog or dyspneic cat. They may pay for the physical examination, blood work, and radiographs, but they just can’t pay the cost of a specialist consultation and an echocardiogram. This can put a lot of pressure on primary care veterinarians to determine the cause of the cough.
Thoracic radiographs are an important tool in differentiating Congestive Heart Failure from other conditions such as respiratory disease. However, primary care veterinarians are expected to read radiographs from different dog breeds and be able to tell if the patient has an enlarged heart. Cats are even more difficult because we are often talking changes in millimeters, and much of their hypertrophy is concentric. With some populations this is easy, but for others, it can be a real challenge.
To address this dilemma, Drs. James W. Buchanan and Jorg BuÌcheler at the University of Pennsylvania developed the Vertebral Heart Size – VHS to assist veterinarians in assessing heart size. The VHS is a method that allows veterinarians to evaluate the heart size across dog and cat breeds and provide an accurate assessment of true cardiac enlargement. There is a good correlation when scaling heart size and vertebral body length.
To Perform a VHS in Dogs
To Perform a VHS in Cats
- Using the Right Lateral projection:
What Are The Signs
Because HCM can take several weeks, months, or years to progress and most cats will not display any clinical signs until the disease has reached an advanced stage, regular veterinary exams are critical for catching this condition early.
- Murmurs or other abnormal heart sounds
- Irregular breathing sounds
As the disease progresses, your cat may develop more noticeable signs of heart disease, including:
- Lethargy or weakness
- Rapid breathing during periods of rest
- Exercise intolerance
If you notice any of these signs, it is important to seek veterinary care immediately.
What’s A Normal Cat Temperature Tips For Checking Your Cat’s Vitals
Keeping your cat’s health in tip-top shape isn’t always easy, especially when they’re extremely adept at hiding an illness. So how can you detect when your feline friend isn’t feeling so hot? Being familiar with baseline vitals, such as what a normal cat temperature is and how many beats per minute indicate a healthy cat heart rate, can help you get a pulse on your pet’s health.
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What Is A Heart Murmur
A heart murmur is an abnormal sound heard with a stethoscope during the heart beat cycle.; Most people are familiar with the two sounds a heartbeat makes when the heart valves are closing,;”lub-dub”. A;murmur is an additional “whoosh” or “swish” sound.;;
Heart murmurs can be present at birth or develop later in life. A heart murmur isn’t a disease, but heart murmurs may indicate an underlying heart problem. Some cats will have heart disease without a heart murmur.; Also, heart murmurs can be harmless .; There is no treatment to cure a cat’s heart murmur.; An echocardiogram is the best way to determine how significant a cat’s heart murmur is and how it will affect their life.;;
If the veterinarians at Metropolitan Veterinary Center auscult a heart murmur during your cat’s physical examination we will consult with you regarding the best way to proceed.;
When To Put Cat Down With Heart Failure
Chronic breathing problems
Unable to move
While it might seem like an impossible decision, if your cat is experiencing these symptoms and has already been diagnosed with heart failure, you should absolutely put him/her down. A cat that is living with advanced heart failure is living a painful and miserable life. Although you will certainly miss your cat, you should put him/her down to take it out of its misery. One of the key signs that you should put your cat with heart failure down is when they completely stop eating food. This is a sign that your cat can no longer survive under its own will. While there are some avenues you could take, such as putting an IV into your cat in order to inject fluids, this is very expensive and your cat will be living a very painful and miserable life.
You should consult your vet before making the decision to euthanize your cat.
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Does My Cat Have A Heart Condition
It can be difficult to tell if your cat has a heart condition because the signs can be similar to those of other disorders. Your veterinarian may check for heart disease using some of the following methods.
- A stethoscope exam can reveal murmurs and fluid in the lungs
- Palpation can reveal unusual pulses
- X-rays reveal heart enlargement
- An EKG can identify heart enlargement and irregular rhythms
- Blood and urine tests can reveal heartworms and the condition of other internal organs
The following symptoms may indicate a heart problem in your cat.
- A low-pitched cough that sometimes leads to gagging
- Breathing difficulties that include shortness of breath
- Reduced ability to exercise
- Noticeable weight gain or loss
- Swelling in the abdomen
IMPORTANT: A heart condition may not be obvious in the early stages. If you are in any doubt about your cats health, consult your veterinarian.
Diagnosing Hcm In Cats
If you have concerns about your cat and heart disease, its best to reach out to a pet cardiologist near you to get a clear diagnosis and treatment plan. CVCA has several locations in , Kentucky, Texas, and Virginia. Give us a call, and we will set up one or all of the following:
- Physical exam including listening to the heart and lungs, checking your cats blood pressure.
- NT-proBNP blood test that measures a heart stress hormone thet can help detect heart disease.
- Electrocardiogram to measure electrical activity of your cats heart to find heart rhythm problems.
- Echocardiogram ultrasound by a board-certified vet cardiologist to view your cats heart in great detail. This test is the gold standard for diagnosing heart disease in cats.
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Symptoms Of Heart Disease
While there are several heart diseases that your cat or dog can contract or develop, the symptoms are all usually very similar. This is because heart disease doesnt necessarily mean one specific type of condition but encompasses a wide range of heart-related problems that can affect your cat or dog. If your pet is experiencing any of the following symptoms, we suggest taking them to your veterinarian straight away.
How To Check Your Cat’s Heart Rate
Checking your cat’s heart rate is a simple process.2;Put your cat on her right side and put your hand on her chest behind the front left leg . Now, count how many beats you hear in 15 seconds. Multiply that number by four to get your cat’s approximate heart rate. You can also count for a full minute if she’s very calm.
Be gentle, so your kitty thinks you’re just petting her. If she gets anxious, that could increase her heart rate. If you notice her normal heart rate is consistently too fast or if it seems irregular, schedule a visit with your vet.
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Heart Murmur In Cats Life Expectancy
The prognosis depends on the cause of the heart murmur. If the murmur is innocent, no treatment is needed and the prognosis is usually very good to excellent.
If the murmur is caused by a functional problem that is treatable or by an extracardiac disease, it might resolve over time. If the murmur is caused by cardiac disease, the long-term prognosis will depend on the specific type of cardiac disease.
Depending on the diagnosis, lifestyle changes might be required in order to manage your pet’s condition, such as exercise and changes in the diet. Make sure to give any prescribed medications and take your cat for follow-up checkups according to your vets instructions.
How Can You Tell If A Cat Has Heart Disease
The disturbance in the blood flow causes abnormal vibration or a heart murmur in cats. There are also various stages of heart disease and congestive heart failure in cats that veterinarians use to determine severity: Asymptomatic: Heart disease in cats is detected, but there is a lack of any outward signs.
The life expectancy depends on the cause of the murmur: cats with benign or innocent murmurs will have a normal life span, while cats with heart murmurs caused by life threatening structural defects of the heart may only live for months or a few years.
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What Extracardiac Problems Cause A Heart Murmur
Some extracardiac problems can cause what is called a ‘functional heart murmur’. A functional heart murmur may be due to anemia , hypoproteinemia , fever or infection, or by conditions such as pregnancy, obesity, or emaciation. With young kittens, anemia and/or hypoproteinemia can be caused by a heavy infestation of parasites such as intestinal worms, blood parasites, fleas or ticks. Adult cats that are anemic may have other underlying abnormalities .
“With young kittens, anemia and/or hypoproteinemia can be caused by a heavy infestation of parasites…”
Some other extracardiac heart murmurs are ‘secondary’, or caused by changes in the heart that occur because of some other disease – in cats, the most common cause of a secondary heart murmur is hyperthyroidism , which causes a form of cardiomyopathy called ‘hypertrophic cardiomyopathy’.
How To Help Your Cat Stay Calm And Happy
If you want your cat to stay mentally and physically fit, there are some simple steps you can take. First, find a good veterinarian and bring your kitty in for regular checkups and vaccinations. This is the easiest step and by far the most important.
You also want to feed your kitty nutritious food and avoid overfeeding him. Be sure to ask your vet how much food is too much. AvoDerm Natural cat food offers a;wide variety of nutritious formulas;in both wet and dry styles.
Play and exercise are important for your cat’s health too. Sometimes;boredom increases stress;in cats. If your kitten has a clean bill of health, try playing with him more and helping him get more exercise. You can take your cat outside on a harness for a walk, or just play in the house with a feather wand toy.
Comfort Zone Calming Diffusers;mimic your cat’s natural pheromones and may decrease stress by signaling to cats that everything is okay. Providing a safe and enclosed place for your kitty to sleeplike the;K&H Thermo-Lookout Podcan also lower stress levels. Kittens will especially take to the;Mother’s Heartbeat Heated Kitty Pet Bed. The bed includes a heated bed, a;heart pillow, and a heartbeat device that mimics the vibration of a mother’s heartbeat. This can produce a strong, calming effect on kittens.
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Complications Associated With Hcm
Many felines diagnosed with HCM eventually develop signs of congestive heart failure. Cats with HCM are at risk for developing blood clots that can escape the heart and eventually become lodged in a blood vessel that has become too narrow. This is called a thromboembolism. A common area for this to occur is the hind quarters region, at the point the aorta splits before going into each rear leg. If this happens, paralysis and severe pain will result. In fact, the paralysis and pain are very common reasons many owners initially bring their cat to see a veterinarian. However, what they thought might be a broken leg or lameness is actually hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in cats.
With supportive veterinary and in-home family care, between 40%-50% of patients with thromboembolic disease can internally break down clots and regain some amount of limb function over time.
Due to the nature of how blood clots fragment and disperse throughout the body, cats that experience blood clotting once are at a significantly increased risk of developing another clot within the following weeks or months. Because of the somber prognosis for cats that have suffered a thromboembolic event, some owners elect euthanasia.
Recovery Of Heart Beat Problems In Cats
Your veterinarian will want to check your cat periodically after discharge or treatment has begun. During these visits, he will check your cat’s vital signs, run blood work and perform diagnostic tests as he sees fit. These visits are necessary to keep your cat healthy. Be sure to tell your doctor if your cat experiences any negative symptoms at these appointments. Following your doctor’s recommendations is an important part of the equation. This includes giving him any prescribed medications and following any special diet plan your doctor recommends. If your doctor recommends limited activity, you will need to keep your cat indoors and on cage rest.;
Many cats with heart problems go on to live normal lives with treatment and management. Early detection and diagnosis is key to managing heart rate problems as your cat ages.
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Heart Beat Problems Average Cost
From 534 quotes ranging from $200 – $2,000
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What Is The Life Expectancy Of A Cat With A Heart Murmur
The life expectancy depends on the cause of the murmur: cats with benign or innocent murmurs will have a normal life span, while cats with heart murmurs caused by life threatening structural defects of the heart may only live for months or a few years. In some cases, sudden death of affected cats can even occur. This is why its; so important to gain an accurate diagnosis of the cause.
Your Cats Heart: Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
Your cats heart is wrapped around yours and vice versa but sometimes his heart isnt healthy and you may not even know it.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the most common heart condition seen in cats. It occurs when the walls of the left ventricle thicken so that less blood can fit into the heart chamber. As the heart wall gets thicker and thicker, the space inside the chamber becomes smaller and smaller. Eventually not enough blood is pumped by the heart, which causes the symptoms that you eventually see. The heart tries to compensate for this by beating faster, trying to provide the body with enough blood. Some cat breeds like;Maine Coon, Ragdoll, British Shorthair and Sphinx are at higher risk of developing HCM.
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Signs Of An Enlarged Heart In Cats
Signs of heart disease can vary depending on the severity of the disease. In early stages of heart disease, cats can appear normal. Some cats will have very subtle symptoms that may progress over time. Signs of heart disease in cats may include:
- Noisy, difficult, open-mouthed breathing
- Increased respiratory rate and/or increased respiratory effort
- Posture of help breathing such as squatting or lying with chest down, head extended and elbows pointed outward and back
- Anorexia or lack of appetite
- Weight loss
- Sudden inability to use one or more limbs and crying
- Your vet may auscultate a murmur- learn more about Murmurs in Cats. This is a very good article written by a veterinary cardiologist.
Some pet owners may attribute the subtle changes associated with heart disease in cats to changes to age in older cat or maturity in younger cats. As the heart disease progresses, there may be progressive weight loss, trouble breathing which can cause an increased breathing rate or increased effort. If you believe your cat has an enlarged heart or is having any difficulty breathing or is in pain, please see your veterinarian immediately.
Heart disease can be a cause of sudden and unexpected death. Learn more about Sudden Cat Death: Understanding Why it Happens.
Causes Of Enlarged Heart In Cats
It is widely believed now that taurine deficiency was the primary cause of enlarged hearts in cats, but with the addition of taurine to cat food, this has been largely resolved. Modern cases have no single cause that can be pinpointed, but instead there are several possible known culprits, including:
- Genetic predisposition to enlarged heart
Assuming taurine deficiency is not the cause of your cats enlarged heart, a more in-depth examination will be needed.
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What Causes Heart Conditions
Although there is no single cause, nutritional problems can play a major role in heart conditions. Other factors that can contribute include:
Body condition: Overweight cats are more likely to develop heart disease.
Age: Heart conditions in cats occur more frequently with increasing age.
Breed: In cats,;Persian,;Maine coon;and American shorthair breeds seem more likely to suffer from myocardial disease.
What To Do If Your Cats Vitals Are Off
If your cats heart or respiratory rate, temperature, or mucous membrane color are not normal, call a veterinarian right away.
If your cat is not breathing, you will need to perform rescue breathing.
If your cat does not have a heartbeat and isnt breathing, you will need to perform .
You can learn more about basic first aid for various feline conditions here: First Aid for Cats: An Overview.
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Signs Of Heart Disease In Cats
- Heart murmur
- Acute weakness or paralysis in rear limbs
- Distended abdomen
- Slow growth in kittens
- Sudden death
Note that a heart murmur does not always indicate the presence of heart disease. A heart murmur occurs due to turbulence in the blood flowing through the heart. This can be heard when listening to the heart with a stethoscope and sounds like swishing or whooshing. A heart murmur may occur secondary to a heart condition but can also be caused by something as simple as stress. If your vet detects a heart murmur, it’s a good idea to do further testing to rule out heart disease.