Heart Murmurs in Cats

Heart Murmurs in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Most common symptoms

Anemia / Collapse / Lethargy / Poor Appetite / Weakness / Weight Loss

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Rated as serious conditon

2 Veterinary Answers

Most common symptoms

Anemia / Collapse / Lethargy / Poor Appetite / Weakness / Weight Loss

Heart Murmurs in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

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What are Heart Murmurs?

If your vet discovers a heart murmur, that alone is not an actual diagnosis. Rather, it can lead to the discovery of an underlying problem. Not all heart murmurs affect the health of your cat, but if heard, it may be best to still have your cat fully assessed.

When your veterinarian uses a stethoscope to listen to your cat's heart, an abnormal sound, known as a heart murmur, may be heard. Typically, the heart makes two distinct noises as the heart valves closes. Murmurs are heard between these normal beats. The more severe murmurs are capable of drowning out the average heartbeats.

Heart Murmurs Average Cost

From 600 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,000

Average Cost

$800

Symptoms of Heart Murmurs in Cats

Symptoms of a heart murmur can vary widely depending on several characteristics. Some cats may not exhibit any signs at all. However, there are a few clinical signs to lookout for:

  • Pale gums
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Abnormal or congested breathing
  • Rapid or difficult breathing
  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Weight loss
  • Coughing
  • Collapse

Types

Heart murmurs are classified as congenital, acquired, and innocent/physiologic.

  • Congenital:

    This type is present at birth, and is commonly caused by heart defects or diseases.

  • Acquired:

    Cats with this type develop it later in life. It is the most common type of murmur.

  • Innocent/Physiologic:

    This has no impact on a cat's health, and is commonly found in young kittens.

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Causes of Heart Murmurs in Cats

There are a number of conditions that can disrupt blood flow, thus causing heart murmurs. Common causes include:

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Hypoproteinemia (low protein levels in the blood)
  • Hyperthyroidism (excess thyroid hormone)
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (heart walls thicken and restrict blood flow)
  • Anemia
  • Blood clots in the heart
  • Increased heart rate in nervous cats
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Emaciation
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Diagnosis of Heart Murmurs in Cats

Heart murmurs are mainly discovered during a physical examination as your veterinarian listens to your cat's heart. Once the abnormality is found, your vet will further assess your cat. Initially, you will be asked about your cat's health as well as whether they have presented any clinical signs.

The vet will also grade the intensity of the heart murmurs while listening with the stethoscope. This grade is placed on a scale of I to VI. Grade I is barely audible, and it is heard on only one side of the chest. By Grade VI, the loudness has intensified. It can be heard in more than one location, and the vibration of it can be easily felt through the cat's chest wall.

If your cat presented no symptoms and was instead nervous during the physical examination, your vet may simply wish to re-evaluate them at a later date when they are calmer as the murmur could have simply been innocent. Likewise in young kittens that have a low-intensity murmur, the vet will just propose a re-evaluation in a few weeks.

In the case that your cat presents symptoms or the murmur appears to be caused by an underlying problem, your vet may order several diagnostic tests. Blood tests such as a CBC (complete blood count) is used to detect anemia or infections, and blood pressure tests are used to check for hypertension. Chest X-rays will also be ordered to look at the lungs and the vessel size and shape of the heart. An EGG (electrocardiogram) will be used to examine any irregular heart rate or rhythm.

Further, your vet may perform an ultrasound to exam the heart, a procedure known as an echocardiogram. An echocardiogram may be accompanied by a Doppler examination which detects the speed and the direction of blood flow the heart valves and chambers. This particular assessment is highly useful in determining the exact location of the cause of the heart murmur.

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Treatment of Heart Murmurs in Cats

Any type of treatment always depends on what exactly is the underlying cause of the heart murmurs.

Monitor

In the event that heart murmurs are innocent, then your vet may wish only to monitor your cat. Regular monitoring ensures that no complications arise, and your cat remains relatively healthy. This periodic re-examination may occur every few weeks to every few months.

Medication

Depending on the cause, specific medication may be given to treat whatever condition that has been discovered. Medicine is useful in cases such as hyperthyroidism and high blood pressure. Nutritional supplements are also useful in treating cases of anemia. In the case of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, some medication such as blood thinning drugs and beta blockers to relax muscles may be useful in providing some relief. Even so, cardiomyopathy is mainly treated with supportive care.

Surgery

If the murmurs are caused by a congenital disease, then your vet may recommend surgery. Any specific surgery will depend on the exact nature of the disease.

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Recovery of Heart Murmurs in Cats

Depending on the cause of the heart murmurs, the outlook ranges. Those diagnosed with innocent murmurs live healthy and normal lives, and require no recovery and minimal management beyond routine examinations. If your vet has prescribed any medication, then it is best to take it as directed even if your cat appears to be in good health.

Depending on the diagnosis, lifestyle changes may be of good help to manage your cat's condition. These changes include managing diets as well as exercise. Also, be sure to still follow-up with your vet as only they can check whether or not a murmur has been resolved or may have worsened.

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Heart Murmurs Average Cost

From 600 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,000

Average Cost

$800

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Heart Murmurs Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Ivory

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Domestic shorthair

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3 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

None Yet

I took my 3 year old male cat, Ivory, in to get some treatment for minor chin acne. The vet told me she heard a "significant" heart murmur, grade 5. I was surprised because he is very active, has a great appetite, and seems to be strong and healthy. He's not overweight or underweight--he's 10 pounds. I have 5 other cats, and he behaves no differently than they do. In fact, he's more active. The last time he was seen by a vet was 2 years ago, and no murmur was heard. The current vet suspects it could be hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and did an NP Pro BNP blood test on him. She recommended a Doppler ultrasound as well if the test comes back with signs that he's got heart disease. I am perfectly willing to have the ultrasound done, regardless of the blood test results because I can't live with not knowing why he's got a murmur, and I had an 8 year old cat who died a sudden death from HCM. Granted--Ivory was VERY upset during the car ride to the vet, and was fighting the tech the entire time. It took 2 people to get him to stay still. He also got a rabies shot right before she listened to his heart. So, I am not sure if a murmur this loud could be explained away by the fact that he was stressed...we will know in a few days, and I am hoping for the best. I have read a lot about murmurs, and it seems that veterinary cardiologists are divided about whether to medicate a cat that is asymptomatic for heart disease. I want to do what's best for Ivory, and want to medicate him if it will extend his life, but his quality of life right now is excellent.

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Enzo

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Tuxedo

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1 Year

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Sneezing
Mild Lethargy

Enzo sneezes frequently, and he lounges around every now and then. I figured he had asthma or something. He's about a year old. I took him to the vet today to get neutered, and when they examined him, they discovered he has a heart murmur. He'll still run around and play, but I just need to know the best things I can do for him to make sure he still lives a good life. I'm a college student, so as most of you would know, I'm not dripping gold or anything to get a veterinarian to fix his condition.

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Scout

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domestic short hair

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8 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Cough, Thirst, Excessive Urination

My 8 year old DSH cat was diagnosed 2 years ago by a vet using only a stethoscope as having a heart murmur. The following year she stated it was louder and again using only a stethoscope. In May of this year I took my cat to another doctor since I had moved. My cat had begun to cough a few times in early February to the point that he was coughing 5-6 times a day. The new doctor immediately did all the lab tests and xrays to see what was going on since the other doctor had nothing done. Some liquid was around the heart. He prescribed Enalapril, Lasix, and Vetmedin to get rid of the water build up. 2 weeks later I take my cat back in for a follow up and know he has the early stages of kidney disease! The meds were too strong for him according to the vet. I don't want my cat to develop kidney disease, so should I take him off the meds that are causing it even though they helped with the coughing? What else can be done for my cat with the heart murmur?

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Mac

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Dom

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10 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Noisy Breathing

Mac is approximately 10 years old and went in for a routine exam. He is in need of a dental cleaning with an extraction or two. The vet discovered a murmur and graded it 4, but said his heartbeat was very strong. Before he can be put under for the cleaning, he needs to see a cardiologist. I can't afford one and the cleaning. Is a cardiologist vital for Mac or can the vet do something else to clear him?

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Tigger

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Short hair tabby

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13 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Weight Loss
Coughing
Loss Of Appetite
Inactive

Tigger was not eating as much as usual, and became lethargic. We also noticed he was dry heaving (which we thought was a stuck hairball). We took him to the vet 2 months ago, and the vet found nothing wrong. This week, we realized that the dry heaving which he was doing at least once a day may actually be coughing. He was still not eating and sleeping a lot, so we took him to a different vet for a second opinion. The vet discovered he had a heart murmur (on a scale of 1-6 where 1 is the least and 6 is the worst, she said he had a 2 or 3. She then took an x ray and his chest x ray was most distressing. There was not a mass found, but throughout the lungs was greyish and not clear. The vet was not actually sure what it is. She is treating him with antibiotics for the chance that it is infection, but she has a strong feeling it is cancer. She did not want to prescribe steriods since that can affect his heart, so she prescibed an inhaler but his breathing at this point doesn't seem labored so we did not take the inhaler yet (it was $351 for the inhaler and meds for it so we wanted to wait to see how the antibiotics work first). She also prescribed an appetite stimulant which worked at first. What do you think the grey shadowy look in his lungs is and what would be the prognosis?

Heart Murmurs Average Cost

From 600 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,000

Average Cost

$800

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