What are Heart Beat Problems?
Your cat's normal heart rate should fall between 140 and 220 beats per minute. If he is excited or nervous, his heart rate may be on the high end of the spectrum. His rate of respiration should be between 20 and 30 breaths in 60 seconds. Relaxed cats will have a lower heart rate. Some signs of trouble include panting, a heart rate that is consistently too fast or slow, and respiration rates that fall outside of the normal range.
Heart problems in your cat can be mild or severe. There are a variety of conditions that can cause these disorders in cats. Certain breeds such as Maine Coon are predisposed to heart problems. If your cat has abnormal sounds in his heart, your doctor will make a diagnosis and design a treatment plan if necessary.
Keeping your cat healthy depends on attention to his behavior and regular visits to your veterinarian. During these check-ups, your doctor will listen for any abnormalities in his heart. Taking your cat to the veterinarian is especially important as he ages. While most cats do not have serious health issues, some develop heartbeat problems.
Symptoms of Heart Beat Problems in Cats
It is not always easy to tell if your cat is having heartbeat problems.Certain signs are obvious while some may only be heard with a stethoscope. Here are some symptoms associated with heart conditions in cats that can cause problems with his heart rhythm.
- Abnormally fast heart beat
- Abnormally slow heart beat
- Irregular heartbeat
- Overall weakness
- Very pale or white gums
- Losing consciousness
- Heart murmur
- Heart failure
- Presence of gallop rhythm
- Pounding heartbeat
- Muffled heart sounds
There are several types of cardiac disorders that can cause your cat to have abnormal heart sounds. Here are some of the most common seen in domestic cats:
- Cardiac arrhythmia
- Heart murmur
- Heart failure
Causes of Heart Beat Problems in Cats
While there are many things that can cause your cat to develop heart rate problems, the following are diagnosed most often in cats:
- Feline aortic thromboembolism
- Traumatic injury
- Reaction to medication
- Congestive heart failure
- Gastrointestinal disease
- Neurological disorders
- High blood pressure
- Increased growth hormone production
- Taurine deficiency
- Genetic defects
Diagnosis of Heart Beat Problems in Cats
If your veterinarian detects problems with your cat's heart, he will need to diagnose the cause of the problem. He will begin by asking you detailed questions about your cat's health history. Include any information that may be relevant such as problems shortly after birth, pre-existing conditions and when you first noticed symptoms in your cat. He will also conduct a physical exam, which includes documenting your cat's temperature, weight, heart rate, and respiration rate.
Diagnostic tests will also help your doctor determine the cause of your cat's heartbeat problems. He will draw blood for a complete blood count and a biochemical profile. A urinalysis will also be performed to look for signs of high blood sugar or infection. Your doctor will take your cat's blood pressure to determine if it is within normal limits. Some veterinarians will ask you to take your cat's blood pressure at home if he is agitated. This will help develop a baseline and determine if your cat needs medication to control his blood pressure. A chest X-ray will give your doctor a look at your cat's heart, chest cavity, and lungs. Depending on the results of the chest X-ray, an ultrasound or echocardiogram may also be done. If your cat has an arrhythmia, your veterinarian may order an EKG.This test may help determine the type of arrhythmia present.
Treatment of Heart Beat Problems in Cats
Your veterinarian will treat your cat based on the cause of his condition. In many cases, treating the underlying condition responsible for the heartbeat problems may resolve the problem. If your cat has high blood pressure or other forms of heart disease, your doctor may prescribe medications such as beta blockers, diuretics, or ACE inhibitors to treat it. Cats with slow heartbeats may need to be hospitalized for stabilization and monitoring. Many cats with fast heartbeats do not require any treatment. If heartbeat problems continue, your doctor may recommend a pacemaker to control it over the long term.
Recovery of Heart Beat Problems in Cats
Your veterinarian will want to check your cat periodically after discharge or treatment has begun. During these visits, he will check your cat's vital signs, run blood work and perform diagnostic tests as he sees fit. These visits are necessary to keep your cat healthy. Be sure to tell your doctor if your cat experiences any negative symptoms at these appointments. Following your doctor’s recommendations is an important part of the equation. This includes giving him any prescribed medications and following any special diet plan your doctor recommends. If your doctor recommends limited activity, you will need to keep your cat indoors and on cage rest.
Many cats with heart problems go on to live normal lives with treatment and management. Early detection and diagnosis is key to managing heart rate problems as your cat ages.