Puffed Heart in Cats
Heart disturbances are detected when a vet listens to a cat’s heart and hears a whopping sound or other noise other than the heartbeat. This is not always a cause for concern, but it can happen in cats. Common causes include an overactive thyroid gland, high blood pressure, heart defects, and thickening of the heart muscle. If your cat has difficulty breathing, feels weak, loses weight, does not want to eat, or falls suddenly, he may have a heart condition. Treatment may include addressing surgery or any underlying issues that may be the cause of the murmur.
Heart murmur is an unusual sound that a vet hears when hears a cat’s heart through a stethoscope. Typically, a veterinarian hears two sounds, a “lub” and a “dub”, which are the sounds of a heart valve closing as blood passes through the heart. An additional “whooshing” sound or other noise, known as a heart murmur, is usually associated with disturbances in the normal flow of blood through the heart.
Veterinarians rank the intensity or loudness of a heart murmur in grades one through six, with one being barely audible and six being the loudest. There is also a one to five ranking system that works in the same way. These grades do not necessarily correlate with the severity of the heart condition; They are just one of many ways that veterinarians try to mark the murmur.
Although it is not considered normal, heartburn is not always a cause for concern. However, it can be a sign of heart problem. Depending on the condition of your cat, veterinarians may want to perform additional diagnostic tests to determine the cause of the murmur.
Why is heart murmur?
Heart disturbances occur when there is disturbance in the blood as it flows through the heart. Murmur is audible in the form of a whistling or loud sound that occurs during a normal cycle of heartbeat.
Murmurs are classified on a scale of 6 through 1 based on intensity or loudness. A loud murmur indicates more turbulence, and the loudest is audible in many places on the cat. A soft murmur can only be detectable in one place. However, it is important to know that the heart does not indicate the severity of the murmur condition.
Additionally, the heart murmur may be persistent, meaning that it is always audible at the same level of intensity or always sounds the same. On the other hand, a feline heart murmur can be dynamic, varying in intensity from time to time.
There are many different conditions that can cause heart disturbances in a cat. Some of these are serious and potentially life-threatening. Others are benign, not related to a disease, and may not affect your cat’s health.
Symptoms and identification
Heart murmur is caused by any condition that can cause disturbance in the flow of blood through the heart. In cats, common causes of heart murmur include:
- Hyperthyroidism (excess of thyroid hormone)
- high blood pressure
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (thickening of heart muscle walls)
- Heart valve deficiencies or blockages
- Defect in heart walls
- Blood clots inside the heart
- Heartworm disease (rare)
- Severe dehydration
Occasionally, a vet may detect a heart murmur in a young kitten. While it may indicate the presence of a congenital heart condition (a defect was born with the kitten), in many cases it is said to be an innocent murmur, meaning that it is not related to a heart problem. This murmur usually disappears by the time the animal is about 4 months old. If one does not resolve the murmur, your veterinarian may recommend a diagnostic test for further investigation. Not all cats with heart conditions show external symptoms. However, if you have been told that your cat has a murmur in his heart, you should watch for signs like this:
- Difficulty breathing or fast
- Inhalation or “noise” inhalation
- loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Weakness or lethargy (fatigue)
- The fall
If your cat shows signs of open mouth breath or panting, gray or blue gums, or tongue or leg paralysis, seek veterinary help immediately. To determine the cause of a heart murmur, your vet may recommend several tests, such as:
- Blood tests including thyroid and heartworm tests
- Chest radiograph (X-ray) to assess the heart, blood vessels, and lungs
- An electrocardiogram (ECG)
- An echocardiogram (an ultrasound examination to evaluate the structure and function of the heart)
- Blood pressure test
Treatment depends on the cause of the heartbeat and the condition of your cat. If your cat is not showing signs of heart disease other than murmur, your veterinarian can monitor your cat and provide treatment only when indicated.
In some cases, such as when the heart murmur is caused by hyperthyroidism, anemia, or dehydration, treatment of those conditions can resolve the heart murmur completely. If the murmur is caused by a congenital condition, surgery may be recommended. In other cases, heart murmur may persist, but medications can help make your cat more comfortable and improve the longevity of your pet.
This article has been reviewed by a vet