What is Ventricular Standstill?
Ventricular standstill in cats describes when the ventricles within the heart cease to function in pumping blood throughout the body. A cat’s heart is made up of four sections, or chambers, which work together to efficiently pump blood throughout the circulatory system. The upper chambers are called atria and the lower chambers are called ventricles.
During an episode of ventricular standstill in cats an ECG, or electrocardiogram, will show the absence of any ventricular activity. This failure of the ventricles to pump blood through the valves of the heart can cause brain damage, permanent disability, and even death if not treated within minutes of occurrence.
Ventricular standstill in cats is a serious condition affecting the heart. Ventricular standstill describes a condition that could lead to death or serious permanent injury within minutes if not treated by a professional veterinarian. While self-diagnosis of ventricular standstill is never an advisable route, if your cat is suffering from this serious condition there are important facts you should know in order to make informed decisions regarding treatment and care.
Symptoms of Ventricular Standstill in Cats
In addition to the severe form of ventricular standstill, other minor symptoms may exist, such as:
- Occasional fainting
- Shortness of breath
- Extreme lethargy
Causes of Ventricular Standstill in Cats
Ventricular standstill in cats is an underlying symptom caused by a variety of diseases and conditions related to heart disease or degeneration. While many illnesses or conditions may cause ventricular standstill, a few of the most common are listed below.
- Heart disease
- Genetic or inherited defect
- Severe infection or illness which causes damage to the heart or valves
- Other underlying conditions causing prolonged increase in blood pressure or heart rate
Diagnosis of Ventricular Standstill in Cats
Ventricular standstill in cats will be an immediately apparent condition in your cat based on physical presentation. Cats suffering from ventricular standstill will have no apparent heart rate and will not display any reading on an ECG. Your veterinarian will perform an emergency examination if they believe your cat is suffering from ventricular standstill.
Once your cat has been stabilized, the focus will switch to diagnosis of the underlying condition which may have caused the ventricular standstill. A full blood panel will be requested. This test will allow the veterinarian to determine whether your cat is suffering from an infection that is affecting the lining of the heart.
Your veterinarian may also request an x-ray. Imaging can identify inflammation, damage or defect in the heart organ or surrounding tissues. In rare cases when x-rays are not dispositive, MRI or other imaging procedures may be preferable.
Treatment of Ventricular Standstill in Cats
Immediate treatment of ventricular standstill in your cat will consist of stabilizing your pet and restoring proper and immediate heart function. This may be performed in a variety of ways. Special medications can be administered to your cat to force the heart to expand and contract at a regular rate. These medications typically will only work in instances where minor, prolonged conditions are present. In acute cases of ventricular standstill, special electrical or manual stimulation will be required to restore normal function to the heart.
After your cat is stabilized, your veterinarian will treat your cat in a manner appropriate to the underlying causation or condition. In some cases, this will require antibiotic treatment given intravenously to treat the most serious of infections. In the case of a defect or damage to the heat, your vet may discuss the viability of surgical options to repair the condition.
Recovery of Ventricular Standstill in Cats
Recovery and management in the case of ventricular standstill in your cat will be dependent on the cause of the condition. In the case of severe infection, full recovery may be possible. Recovery will require the pet owner maintain a dedicated regiment of antibiotic or other medication in compliance with the schedule prescribed by your vet. Your veterinarian may also ask that you bring your cat into the office or hospital for follow up treatments of intravenous antibiotics that can have a faster and more potent impact on severe infections.
In the case of defect or damage to the heart muscle or valves, surgical options must be carefully evaluated for effectiveness and impact on your cat’s long term health and quality of life. In mild cases, minor procedures may be used to correct certain deformities and your cat will have a quality prognosis for a long, high quality life. In the case of severe damage or inherited or other deformity, management of symptoms and side effects of the underlying heart condition may be the only option available. You should discuss with your veterinarian the particular circumstances of your pet’s conditions in order to determine the best course of action in dealing with this serious health concern.