What can I expect for my cat who has heart disease?
August 25, 2008 6:31 AM   Subscribe

My cat has been diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. What can I expect?

I am looking for any Mefites who have had cats with similar conditions or vets who have treated cats with this condition.

Here's the backstory. We took our 10 year old cat to the vet last Friday because of sudden onset heavy breathing that began on Tuesday. The breathing progressed to lethargy and reduced appetite. Based on an X-ray indicating fluid on the lungs, the vet removed 90cc of fluid from one lung and 30cc from the second lung; an ultrasound confirmed the heart disease. Our cat was started on diuretics and beta blockers on Saturday and is still at the vet, possibly to be released today. The cause is likely genetic (common among cats in our area and our particular cat is part Maine Coon Cat, a breed with high incidence of this genetic condition). The vet seemed realistic when I asked him about prognosis and indicated that every case is somewhat different with a different trajectory.

I love my cat -- he is an awesome cat -- but I don't want him to be put through needless pain and suffering. For vets, is treatment likely to be successful? Was treatment successful for your cat? And more importantly, would you do whatever you did for your cat again?
posted by bluesky43 to Pets & Animals (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
One of our cats was diagnosed with that, and lived for several more years before she died of an unrelated issue. I think your vet is probably correct that the trajectory of the disease is going to be highly variable.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:47 AM on August 25, 2008

My old man cat was diagnosed with HCM when he was 10 as well. He had a fainting episode and after some x-rays and an ekg, the vet determined that it was HCM. There was some concern that it was HCM as a result of a thyriod problem, but they could never find the swollen thyroid. After about 6 months on the betablockers and a new restriction on salty foods, his heart was back to normal size. He was actually back to his normal self after about a week on the betablockers. He still gets regular checkups to make sure everythings rocking along, but he's gonna be 14 this year and you'd never know there was anything wrong with him or that he's that old.

It's a very variable disease and it largely depends on how well the cat reacts to the medication. We were lucky. Fizgig is one that responds well and just this morning he was running around like a crazy kitten tackling my younger cat from room to room. Really, the only difference between him and the younger cat is that he rests more after playing and can't have popcorn or chips.

Good luck I hope everything goes well.
posted by teleri025 at 8:37 AM on August 25, 2008

My cat was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy last year. He was ten years old, had other health problems including FIV, and had lived the first half of his life as a feral cat. He didn't last long after his diagnosis - about five months. However, his other health problems might have impacted that, and he didn't suffer. It was very sudden, like a heart attack. I take comfort in that.

Good luck with your cat.
posted by christinetheslp at 2:31 PM on August 25, 2008

Our Japanese bobtail was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy four years ago after the vet noticed a heart murmur. She was put on beta blockers; she managed to duck a lot of pills, but when we switched to a transdermal form (smeared on the ear or paw; you can get it created at a compounding pharmacy), the difference was night and day. Her prognosis was 2-3 years when she was diagnosed; at her last checkup, the vet was unable to detect a murmur at all. You can definitely tell she's back to her old self; she regularly beats up our boy cats.

Good luck; give your cat purrs from ours.
posted by tigerjade at 3:57 PM on August 25, 2008

Our cat lived a long and healthy life with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. She took a pill every day and had periodic checkups. I hope that's true for your kitty as well.
posted by not that girl at 5:21 PM on August 25, 2008

This hits close to home for me, as we had two cats, litter mates, who were diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy when they were a little over two years old, about two years ago. The boy died this past Friday, suddenly, probably from a blood clot to the lungs causing a pulmonary embolism. His last hour was horrible, but he had been virtually unchanged outwardly through the course of his disease up to that point, though a series of ultrasounds showed his heart deteriorating rapidly. Through the course of his disease we treated him with an expanding battery of drugs to try to stabilize his heart rate and retard the thickening of the walls of his heart: atenolol, analapril, and finally spironolactone, twice a day for all three. They did seem to help with the heart rate, but the walls of his heart steadily thickened. Our last ditch attempt in the last month or so was to add an anti-clot drug called plavix, which is still not fully tested for use in cats. He did not benefit from it, and absolutely hated the taste, to the point of vomiting it up and foaming at the mouth when we tried a compounded liquid and then unbuffered pills. Putting the pills in a gelatin capsule seemed to help with that. But like I say, it didn't prevent a clot from killing him.

His sister's case is proceeding much more slowly, which the kitty cardiologist has told us is usually the case with females, and she's just on atenolol twice a day and analapril once a day at this point. We hope to have another year or two with her, but we hoped to have that with him too, so we're trying to be realistic. It's hard to say whether knowing what we know now we made the right decision keeping him alive these last couple of months, because his last hour on earth was so horrible, but he was happy and active and sweet as anything right up to that moment. No wheezing, etc. Maybe wasn't grooming himself quite as much, maybe sleeping a bit more.

This isn't really relevant to your cat's situation, but maybe it will mean something to someone else who comes across this thread with a younger cat.

And now I have to go have yet another good cry.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 6:00 PM on August 25, 2008

Thank you so much for all the information - reading your stories was really helpful. And my heart goes out to those of you whose cat succumbed to this disease.

An update on our cat - he is now home from the vet, moving a bit slow and spending a lot of time under chairs (the time at the vets was very traumatic for him) but he is also purring up a storm. He is not real energetic but I am hoping that will change after he has been on the meds for a while. I'm glad to have him home and am cautiously hopeful but time will tell. Thanks again very much for sharing your experiences.
posted by bluesky43 at 7:44 AM on August 26, 2008

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