What are Heart and Carotid Artery Tumors?
Heart and carotid artery tumors are fairly rare in cats, and most are benign. Though rare overall, these tumors can occur within the heart, the aorta or the carotid artery. Chemodectoma is the most common type of cardiac tumor in cats, are most often found on the aorta. Carotid artery tumors are found in the neck.
Symptoms of Heart and Carotid Artery Tumors in Cats
The symptoms associated with heart and carotid tumors in cats vary depending on the size and location of the tumor. However, many cats with tumors do not have symptoms for quite some time. Symptoms become apparent when the tumor begins to grow into nearby vessels, place pressure on the aorta, or displace the cat's trachea. Here are a few symptoms that can indicate the presence of a cardiac tumor:
- Shortness of breath
- Persistent Cough
- Swelling around the neck
- Lack of appetite
- Organ failure
Causes of Heart and Carotid Artery Tumors in Cats
While the exact cause of chemodectoma is unknown, a combination of things may contribute to their development:
- Certain types of infections
Diagnosis of Heart and Carotid Artery Tumors in Cats
Your doctor will take some detailed information from you before examining your cat. It is important that you give as much information as possible, as this will help him diagnose the problem. Let your veterinarian know of any unusual circumstances surrounding your cat's birth, previously diagnosed medical conditions, and when you noticed the onset of his symptoms. After taking a medical history, your veterinarian take vital signs including heart rate, respiration rate, temperature and weight. He will examine your cat, listening to his heart and lung function.
In most cases, your veterinarian will draw blood to run laboratory tests. A complete biochemical profile and a complete blood count, or CBC, are common. A urine sample will also be taken for urinalysis, looking for signs of infection. Diagnostic laboratory work will let your doctor know if there are signs of anemia or if your cat's liver enzymes are high.
X-rays are also used to help determine if tumors are present. Your veterinarian will take X-rays of your cat's chest, near his heart. Some doctors also perform a diagnostic ultrasound, looking for signs of damage to the heart. In certain cases, an electrocardiogram may be done as well. If heart and carotid artery tumors are present, your doctor will perform a biopsy to take a small sample of the tissue. The examination of this tissue will allow him to make an accurate diagnosis on the type of tumor present and whether it is benign or cancerous.
Treatment of Heart and Carotid Artery Tumors in Cats
The ideal treatment for heart and carotid artery tumors is removal, if possible. This is often difficult because of the location. However, if left untreated these types of tumors will continue to grow and interfere with organs or blood vessels in the area. When this occurs, the eventual outcome will be organ failure or heart failure. If your doctor is able to remove your cat's tumor, he may treat him with radiation as well. In some cases, this can slow down the growth or spread of tumors to other areas of the body. Cats that have inoperable tumors or are exhibiting severe symptoms may not benefit from any type of treatment. In these cases, doctors often recommend euthanasia as the most humane course of treatment.
Recovery of Heart and Carotid Artery Tumors in Cats
The recovery process for your cat diagnosed with heart and carotid artery tumors depends on the type of treatment your doctor recommends. If your doctor removes the tumor, your cat will have stitches and need to be monitored to be sure he does not chew them. He may also need to be kept in a cage, so he is less active than usual until he recovers. Your doctor will most likely want to examine your cat every few months. He will perform an examination and X-rays to be sure the tumor has not returned. This is also very important to be sure tumors have not spread to other parts of the body.
After treatment, it is very important that you and your doctor work together to keep your cat healthy. If you notice any changes in his behavior or a return in symptoms, notify your vet immediately. Prompt treatment is the key to your cat's good health.