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When my heart skips a beat...

on February 3, 2014 - 10:46am

First of all a huge thank you to all the fantastic clients who have left reviews on our facebook page, the vet help direct site or nominated us for the prestigious petplan awards.  We are so pleased that you are taking the time to tell others about the clinic and the services we provide; I always well up with pride when I read your feedback. 

With Valentine’s Day approaching, it’s hard to escape the images of hearts and their symbolic association with romantic love.   We now know that hearts are not very ‘heart shaped’ and are mainly concerned with pumping blood rather than emotions, although I have noticed that this doesn’t seem to have put off the chocolate or greetings card manufacturers at this time of year! In any case, market researchers have found that a significant number of us would prefer a cuddle with our cats than our partners – read into this what you will!! 

Heart disease is a very common problem in cats and as is typically the case with our feline friends, they often show no signs at all until things become life threatening.   Confusingly, heart murmurs, which tend to indicate the presence of a heart problem in many species, are heard in many cats during a routine examination and do not always indicate the presence of heart disease.  Even more tricky are the many cats without a heart murmur who have very severe heart disease.   Some cats will have signs associated with heart disease, which may be due to a different underlying cause, for example, an overactive thyroid.  Cats don’t like to make things straightforward, that’s for sure.

Once I have an inkling there is a problem, a thorough ultrasound examination (echocardiography) is the gold standard test to determine what is going on:

·         Is heart disease present?

·         What type of heart disease is present?

·         How serious is the problem?

·         Is treatment necessary at the moment?

·         What is the cat’s prognosis?

The quality of this scan is very dependent on the machine used and the experience and knowledge of the operator.   There is a ‘grey area’ between normal and abnormal  on scan appearance and being relatively small, the measurements of cat hearts needs to be very accurate.  Differences of a few millimetres can be significant.   Many cats with heart disease do not require any treatment whereas in some cases, medication can be crucial and life-saving.

 Thankfully, we are fortunate to be able to call on the expertise of RCVS specialist Paul Smith, who comes to the clinic to see heart cases and brings all his high tech equipment with him.  This means that the scan is performed in the calm, stress free environment of the clinic and there is no break in the continuity of your cat’s care.  The majority of cats can be seen ‘while you wait’ although if extra tests need to be done, we may suggest you leave your cat with us for a few hours.  We rarely need to sedate cats for ultrasound and as you already know, our nurses are experts in gentle handling for their procedures.  Paul is able to discuss your cat’s problem with you and importantly, directly with me, so that we can assess all the options for optimal management and follow up care.  Moreover, there is no need for a costly referral to an unfamiliar hospital.

If you have any questions or would like to find out more click here:  heart murmurs or heart disease in cats.