Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Cats

Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost
Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What is Dilated Cardiomyopathy?

The defective cardiovascular organ causes the feline to have poor circulation, noted by cold paws, and reluctance to engage in physical activity. The feline may also appear weak and have a poor body condition as it ages. Dilated cardiomyopathy was once linked to a dietary deficiency in the amino acid, taurine. However, due to cat food manufacturers adding this essential ingredient into their products, DCM is rarely caused by taurine deficiency. Today, unless the feline is fed a naturally sourced diet, DCM occurs for idiopathic (unknown) reasons. Dilated cardiomyopathy possess a threat for blood clots, stroke and heart failure in cats, therefore treatment must be sought by a veterinary professional.

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in cats is a heart disease of the ventricular muscle, which prevents the organ from moving blood out of the bottom of the heart at full capacity. To understand feline dilated cardiomyopathy, a basic understanding of heart anatomy is required. The feline’s heart has four chambers, just like the human heart, with two right and left aortas atop two right and left ventricles. The chambers separate oxygenated blood from un-oxygenated blood, pushing the blood from the heart to be used throughout the body. In the case of dilated cardiomyopathy, the ventricular chambers are dilated. The enlarged ventricle chamber is large in size compared to the other portions of the heart and upon contraction, the compression is weak, resulting in a partial blood pump.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy Average Cost

From 317 quotes ranging from $500 - $4,000

Average Cost

$2,000

Symptoms of Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Cats

The symptoms caused by dilated cardiomyopathy in cats is related to the decreased blood flow in the body. DCM is noted by a weak pulse, murmur of the heart, and irregular lung sounds, which can also be heard with the help of a stethoscope. At home, cat owners may be able to detect the symptoms of dilated cardiomyopathy in their cat if it displays the following clinical signs: 

  • No interest in food 
  • Lethargy
  • Distended belly
  • Pain
  • Sudden paralysis 
  • Intolerance to exercise 
  • Coughing 
  • Shortness of breath
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Causes of Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Cats

Dilated cardiomyopathy in cats is usually caused by idiopathic, or unknown, reasons. The heart condition tends to affect male felines more than females, and it usually appears between two and twenty years of age. Historically, feline dilated cardiomyopathy was linked to a deficiency in the essential amino acid, taurine. After discovering this connection, cat food manufacturers began adding the amino acid into their cat food products and the percentage of cats present with DCM greatly decreased. A feline with dilated cardiomyopathy could still have a deficiency in taurine if she is fed a vegetarian diet or has an underlying absorption-related health condition. 

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Diagnosis of Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Cats

Felines presented to the veterinary clinic are usually in distress, which requires stabilization before most diagnostic tests can be performed. The veterinarian may first place the feline on oxygen and fluid therapy before returning to talk to you about the symptoms you have noticed at home. The doctor will review the feline’s medical history, talk to the owner about her current diet and medications, then move on to complete the following diagnostic exams: 

  • Radiography: x-ray of the chest and abdomen 
  • Fluid aspirate biopsy 
  • Blood chemistry profile: assess the levels of circulating taurine and electrolytes, and evaluate the liver and kidneys. 
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG) 
  • Echocardiogram, also known as a heart ultrasound
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Treatment of Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Cats

Dilated cardiomyopathy in cats is treated with therapeutic diuretic, angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitor drugs in severe cases, but additional medications may be needed depending on the specific case. In the case of a taurine deficiency, the veterinarian will prescribe supplements to readily supply the body with the missing essential amino acid. You may also be advised to feed your cat a specialized diet, low in sodium, to aid in cardiovascular recovery. 

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Worried about the cost of Dilated Cardiomyopathy treatment?

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Recovery of Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Cats

Cats with dilated cardiomyopathy are usually asked by the veterinarian to return for a re-evaluation approximately seven to fourteen days after hospital discharge. The doctor will likely repeat the ECG exam and take additional x-rays of the chest to visualize the heart. These tests are usually paired with blood work to obtain a full evaluation of the cat’s most recent condition. Cat owners should expect to have the same test repeated every two to three months for the first year and follow check-up visits for the remainder of the cat’s life, as requested by the veterinarian. 

The prognosis for felines with dilated cardiomyopathy is variable, depending on the underlying cause. Taurine deficiencies are reversible and if treated promptly; most felines live a long life. However, DCM that does not have an identified cause will greatly shorten the feline’s life span.

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Dilated Cardiomyopathy Average Cost

From 317 quotes ranging from $500 - $4,000

Average Cost

$2,000

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Dilated Cardiomyopathy Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Albie

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British Shorthair

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7 Months

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3 found helpful

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3 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Panting
Coat Lighter In Spots
Exercise Intolerence

I have a 7 month old British Shorthair with DCM. The cardiologist diagnosed him when he was 5 months old. I took him in after I saw that he would pant after minimal exercise. All four chambers of his heart are enlarged with left and right systolic dysfunction. No mitral valve regurgitation. Taurine levels in blood came back normal. I don’t know what his prognosis is, I was just told that it’s a progressive condition. His health seems to go and down. He was eating less than usual and they said it could possibly be the profession of his condition, cardiac cachexeria. After appetite stimulants were given, he has been better. His coat has started to lighten in spots and I’m not sure if that could be related.

Sept. 11, 2018

Albie's Owner

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Scout

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tabby

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15 Years

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2 found helpful

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2 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Coughing, Lethargy

My cat is 15 years old and just got diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy with a very guarded to poor diagnosis. He has signs of pericardial effusion and polmonary edema. His heart has poor contractility as well. They are recommending six different medications for treatment but not sure if doing that will help as he is older and the diagnosis is so poor. Any advice is appreciated on what to do moving forward.

Feb. 7, 2018

Scout's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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2 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. Whether you decide to treat him depends on a few things - how easy he is to medicate, what the chances are that the medications will help, your commitment to him, his quality of life, and cost, unfortunately. Since I cannot examine Scout or give you an idea as to what his chances of survival are, it would be best to discuss this with your veterinarian, as they have seen Scout and know his general health status and temperment. If you aren't able to give him all 6 medications but want to do something for him, you might ask which medications are most important for his quality of life right now. I hope that he is comfrotable for a while longer.

Feb. 7, 2018

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Dilated Cardiomyopathy Average Cost

From 317 quotes ranging from $500 - $4,000

Average Cost

$2,000

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