What is Increased Heart Rate?
A normal feline heart rate should stay between 140 and 220 beats per minute. His heart rate should be less when he is not excited, so the heart rate is typically lower at home than at the veterinarian’s office. An increased heart rate at times of rest may indicate an underlying condition, such as cardiac arrhythmia or congestive heart failure. If your cat's heart rate seems to remain high while he is relaxing at home, consult your veterinarian for advice.
Your cat's heart rate may vary from time to time, depending on his surroundings and level of stress. However, his heart rate should not remain elevated for extended periods of time.
Symptoms of Increased Heart Rate in Cats
Your cat may not have other symptoms along with his increased heat rate. However, if there is an underlying condition elevating his heart rate, other symptoms may occur. The following is a list of symptoms that can occur with an increased heart rate in cats:
- Heart rate over 220 BPM
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Increased urination
- Excessive thirst
- Nervous behavior
- Sudden aggressive behavior
- Shallow breathing
- High blood pressure
- Unkempt coat
- Pale mucous membranes
- Intolerance to activity
Causes of Increased Heart Rate in Cats
A variety of medical conditions can cause your cat's heart rate to stay elevated. Here are some of the most common causes seen in cats:
Cardiac arrhythmia can cause your cat's heart rate to be too high or low. It can also cause his heart to skip beats and become irregular. This condition can be diagnosed during a routine veterinarian visit, but often is missed due to the level of stress the cat is under at the doctor's office. In many cases, strange behavior is noticed by the owner such as rapid breathing or fainting which results in the doctor visit for diagnosis.
Thyroid conditions can cause your cat's metabolism to work harder and that may increase his heart rate. This condition occurs when your cat's thyroid releases more hormones than he needs.
Congestive Heart Failure
Congestive heart failure occurs when your cat's heart cannot pump enough blood throughout the body. When this happens, his lungs fill with fluid the cat will experience congestive heart failure. An increased heart rate is one symptom of this condition.
Diagnosis of Increased Heart Rate in Cats
Your doctor will begin by asking you questions regarding your cat's past health history. Include information such as unusual birth history, previously diagnosed health conditions and the date of symptom onset. After taking a medical history, your doctor will take your cat's vital signs such as his weight, temperature, respiration rate and heart rate and record them. He will examine your cat, listening to his heart and lungs. He may also test his reflexes and his neurological function.
Diagnostic testing may be done to help confirm a suspected diagnosis. Veterinarians routinely draw blood for a complete blood count or CBC and a biochemical profile. If a thyroid condition is suspected, your doctor will check the levels of thyroid hormones in your cat's body. A urine sample will be taken and examined for signs of infection. Your veterinarian may perform X-rays of your cat's chest and an EKG to check his heart function.
Treatment of Increased Heart Rate in Cats
The treatment of increased heart rate in cats depends on the cause of the condition. In most instances, treatment of the underlying condition is required to resolve symptoms. Many cats with cardiac arrhythmia are diagnosed with hyperthyroidism.If your cat is diagnosed with this condition, your doctor will prescribe medication to control it. These medications will most likely be needed for the rest of your cat's life but are often effective. Your doctor may perform surgery to remove the enlarged portion of the thyroid if necessary.
If your cat is in congestive heart failure, your doctor may admit him to the hospital for stabilization. He will have an IV in place and may receive oxygen. In severe cases, doctors remove fluid from around the cat’s heart so he can breathe more easily.
Recovery of Increased Heart Rate in Cats
Your cat will continue to be monitored by your veterinarian for several weeks after his diagnosis and treatment. Be sure to attend all follow-up appointments and tell your doctor if anything unusual occurs. Your doctor will let you know if your cat must be placed on cage rest until he fully recovers. He will also let you know if your cat needs a special diet. If your cat has high blood pressure, he may need cat food lower in sodium. This type of food is typically available with a prescription and will help keep your cat healthy going forward. Developing a good rapport with your veterinarian is an integral part of communicating with him to keep your cat healthy.