What is Heart and Lung Disease?
The category of lung disease in cats also encompasses a wide range of conditions. Bacterial infection, congestive heart failure, tumors or immune reactions can all cause lung disease in cats. It is important to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your cat is suffering from a heart or lung disease, as these conditions can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated by a professional.
Unfortunately, heart and lung diseases afflict cats just as they do humans. More than one in ten pets examined by a veterinarian has some form of heart disease. Heart disease in cats can be present at birth (congenital), or acquired. Common heart ailments that affect cats are myocardial disease, arrhythmias, vascular (blood vessel) disease and heartworm infection.
Symptoms of Heart and Lung Disease in Cats
Cats with heart disease may exhibit one or more of the following symptoms related to the cardiovascular system:
- Coughing or difficulty breathing
- Fluid accumulation or swelling in the abdomen
- Rapid, slowed or irregular heartbeat
- Failure of a kitten to grow
Symptoms of lung disease in cats include:
- Pus, blood or mucous discharge from the nose
- Dry or mucosal cough
- Rapid breathing
- Labored breathing
- Pain with breathing
- Loud breathing or breathing accompanied by abnormal noises
Some diseases, such as congestive heart failure, affect both the lungs and the heart. In that case your cat may show symptoms of both, especially a wet cough, labored breathing and fluid accumulation in the abdomen.
Causes of Heart and Lung Disease in Cats
There are quite a few types of heart and lung diseases in cats, which can be divided into two major categories, congenital and acquired. Congenital heart and lung diseases are present at birth and often relate to a malformed or defective heart or lung structure. While congenital heart and lung defects are relatively rare, some of the more common types include:
- Heart murmurs
- Septal defects, or abnormalities in the tissue that partitions chambers of the heart
- A defect in the lining of the heart
- Stenosis, or obstruction of blood flow to or from an area of the heart
- Defective heart valves
Acquired heart and lung diseases in cats are more prevalent. Among the most common heart and lung diseases in cats are:
- Lung or heart infection, such as a bacterial infection or heartworms
- Congestive heart failure, or fluid buildup around the lungs and heart
- Pulmonary edema
- Feline respiratory disease complex
- Degenerative valve disease
- Infective endocarditis
- Pericardial disease
- Pulmonary or systemic hypertension
Needless to say, congenital and acquired heart and lung diseases in cats are serious and complicated cases that can only be diagnosed and treated by licensed veterinary professional.
Diagnosis of Heart and Lung Disease in Cats
A veterinarian will begin the diagnostic process with a thorough physical exam of your cat, accompanied by a review of the medical record and history. Your veterinarian will listen to your cat's heart and lungs using a stethoscope to discover whether irregular heartbeat or fluid accumulation is present. Imaging, such as x-rays, electrocardiography, and echocardiography can be used to diagnose arrhythmias, confirm the presence of heartworms or discover structural abnormalities.
Typically, a physical examination and imaging is enough to diagnose heart and lung disease in cats. For more complicated cases or rare conditions, additional tests such as cardiac catheterization or nuclear studies may be ordered to provide a more complete understanding of your cat's heart and lungs.
Treatment of Heart and Lung Disease in Cats
Regardless of your cat's condition, a veterinarian will be concerned with restoring normal heart and lung function, minimizing damage to the heart and lungs, restoring normal heart rhythm or rate, or resolving an infection using anti-parasitics in the case of heartworms or antibiotics in the case of a bacterial infection.
The course of treatment recommended by your veterinarian will vary widely depending on your cat's final diagnosis. Surgery is often required to repair congenital abnormalities that are diagnosed early in a kitten's life. For many conditions, kittens recover fully after surgery and live normal lives. For others, the prognosis is not as reassuring. Your veterinarian will present you with choices of treatment options that fit your cat's conditions and paint a more detailed picture of your cat's health and outlook.
Acquired heart and lung diseases in cats can be treated with surgery, medical therapy (drugs) or lifestyle modifications. Again, only a veterinarian will know what course of treatment is appropriate for your cat.
Recovery of Heart and Lung Disease in Cats
Depending on your cat's condition and the course of treatment you've selected under your veterinarian's guidance, your cat may require anywhere from minimal maintenance and lifestyle management to close supervision throughout life. Your veterinarian will ensure you leave his office understanding your cat's treatment plan to optimize recovery and quality of life.