Did you know that heart disease in cats is a silent killer, just as it is in humans? Underscoring this scary fact are several studies that show that over 15% of seemingly healthy cats have heart disease. So, what’s an owner to do when our furry friends have no way of telling us they’re unwell?
It can be tricky to try and “read” your cat’s behavior since felines are trained to hide symptoms of sickness. Unfortunately, this survival trait which helps them subsist in the wild works against our domestic kitties.
Many household cats stricken by heart disease will not show symptoms; those that do exhibit subtle signs such as slightly labored breathing or increased respiratory rate.
Even the most watchful pet parent will likely miss these minor changes. But, if your fur baby suddenly shows signs of profound weakness, limb numbness, or difficulty breathing these are all possible signs of cardiac arrest.
While all felines are at risk for heart disease, senior cats are at higher risk while cats less than 6 months old are unlikely candidates.
So, how can you help your cat before an emergency arises? Be sure to schedule regular health checkups for your cat, just as you do for yourself!
Although a physical exam goes a long way toward ensuring your cat’s health, it cannot diagnose heart disease with 100% accuracy. However, up to 50% of cats with a heart murmur have heart disease, and this is easily diagnosed with just a stethoscope.
Chest x-rays are another excellent diagnostic tool for detecting feline heart disease. X-rays allow vets to quickly spot problems with the size or shape of the heart, and it’s a painless, non-invasive technique.
A simple blood test can detect feline heart disease with up to 85% accuracy. Since it’s a more invasive screening tool than the above options, you’ll want to carefully consider the pros and cons of these options as well as any other tests that your vet may recommend.
Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, especially when it comes to our furry friends who count on us to take care of their health and happiness!
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