Heart murmur in cats are abnormal heart sounds that the vet identifies when utilizing a stethoscope while listening to your cat’s heart. These auditory vibrations are as a result of the turbulent blood flow in Kitty’s heart.
What causes heart murmurs in cats?
The heart murmur can be “innocent”, where no action needs to be taken. Alternatively, it can be pathologic. This is where conditions like cardiac disease result in structural problems in the heart. It can also be extracardiac, where it’s not caused by a specific heart disease.
The innocent heart murmurs establish no impact on the cat’s overall health. These are often witnessed in young kittens, especially those that are growing rapidly. The mummer appears when the kitten is around 6-8 weeks old. Most cats will have outgrown it by the time they attain 4-5 months of age.
Adult cats may also get intermittent heart murmurs, these occur when their heart rate spikes due to stress. The murmur disappears as normality resumes. The gold standard of testing is to ensure the heart rate is normal first.
Grading The Murmur
The heart murmur is graded between 1 and 6. The more a murmur is audible, the greater the turbulence that is located in the heart. Note that a higher grade of a heart murmur does not automatically mean that the condition is more severe.
In case the cat has structural heart disease, a defect will become apparent that interferes with the flow of blood, causing turbulence. This encompasses leaky heart valves and a valve that is developing greater thickness than is considered normal. It can also be large blood vessels narrowing or even a hole occurring between the heart chambers.
Other structural defects can be congenital—defined as conditions the cat is born with or acquired later on in life. An example of congenital structural heart defects affecting cats is the ventricular septal defect.
When it comes to heart diseases, one of the most common that affects felines is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This acquired heart disease targets the heart muscle, causing the heart walls to thicken, which decreases its efficiency. If the cardiomyopathy is severe, then the cat can develop heart failure.
Determining If Your Cat’s Heart Murmur Is A Sign Of A Serious Problem
Following the veterinary examination of your cat’s heart and detection of a murmur, a series of questions will follow to assess her physical condition. This includes the day-to-day activities at home and any changes in behaviour. They will also observe whether there are additional clinical signs that warrant further testing.
For instance, when a low-intensity heart murmur is detected in kittens, the vet may recommend that you have your pet re-examined. After a few weeks have passed they’ll be able to track how the murmur has progressed. This will establish whether it is increased in intensity or if it has disappeared. A disappearing murmur indicates that it was an innocent murmur.
The heart murmur may be as a result of structural heart disease or the cat has an extracardiac problem. If this is the case additional symptoms will be present, though these may not show up until the disease has progressed.
The vet may establish that the heartbeat has an abnormal rhythm, or the cat has a weak pulse. This is a pointer to an underlying problem.
If untreated, heart disease can lead to congestive heart failure. Poor flows through the heart from this condition can also create issues with other organs.
The Next Step
Depending on the symptoms, the vet may recommend further diagnostic testing of the heart. These include taking blood pressure and chest X-rays. They may even carry out an electrocardiogram, or an echocardiogram—an ultrasound examination.
An ultrasound of the heart is one of the most effective modes of determining the location of the murmur. An echocardiogram with a Doppler examination included is the preferred method. If the vet, or veterinary cardiologist, suspects that the cat has another disease, then blood tests and other examinations may be conducted. Even a cough can be a sign of an array of issues.
Discovering your cat has been diagnosed with heart murmurs doesn’t necessitate the need to panic. Surprisingly, sudden death is extremely rare, the condition is more common than you may think. You just need to have a discussion with the vet about the condition of the cat. This will illustrate how your pet can get to live a long, healthy and happy life.