*Important- The information in this blog post is for informational purposes only and shouldn’t be deemed as medical or veterinary advice or used for self-diagnosis. If your cat is showing any signs of ill health then you should seek the advice of a veterinary professional immediately.*
Few things are more frightening for a pet owner than their furry friend falling ill. There are those frantic trips to the vet and those anxious moments which seem to last forever as we nurse them back to health.
And although we’d much rather prefer that such instances never occurred at all, the truth is that the very best defense we can provide our cherished pets is being as observant and proactive as possible – in addition to providing them with loads of affection, a healthy diet and an environment which is perfectly suited to them.
So with that in mind, I shall be taking a look at one of the illnesses which is of particular interest to those of us who happen to have a Persian in our care: heart disease.
I will also be examining the various kinds found in cats, their symptoms as well as possible methods of prevention to ensure you’re able to provide your silky haired feline with the best possible care and are best placed to notice those early signs.
Persian cats and Heart Disease
Heart problems in Persians – and in cats in general – normally fall under two categories: those which are present when they’re born (congenital) and those which affect them later on in life.
Congenital Heart Defects
It’s worth noting that the former which may be due to genetic issues or poisonous substances or medication taken by the expectant mother, is pretty rare with 1-2% of kittens being affected on average.
Examples of these include:
- Patent ductus arteriosus (the presence of an artery – ductus arteriosus – used when a cat’s still a fetus which is meant to be closed off at birth.)
- Aortic stenosis (insufficient width at the arterial valve through which blood leaves the heart.)
- Ventricular septal defects (the presence of a defect in the partition between the heart’s lower chambers – it’s particularly common.)
Common symptoms of feline congenital heart defects include:
- Stunted growth
- Irregular heartbeat
- Open-mouth breathing
- Exercise intolerance
It’s worth noting that these symptoms may only become noticeable when the affected cats have gotten older.
Heart Defects which Occur Later in Life
Conditions in this category may arise due to a Persian being genetically predisposed to them, its weight, activity or its diet. Occasionally, they may also arise due to the presence of an existing illness such as anemia or hypertension. They may also be caused by injury suffered by the cat.
- Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (Thickening of the muscles of the heart’s lower left chamber. This condition prevents it from pumping blood effectively.)
- Restrictive Cardiomyopathy (Under this condition, the muscle of the heart thickens preventing blood from filling its lower chambers normally.)
- Dilated Cardiomyopathy (A condition caused by a deficiency in taurine – an amino acid. The heart increases in size due to a weakening of its muscle and is unable to pump blood efficiently as a result.)
- Feline myocarditis (An illness which causes the heart’s muscle to become inflamed.)
- Myocardial infarction (The presence of a blood clot which results in the death of heart tissue.)
Common symptoms of adult-onset heart illness in Persians include:
- Rapid breathing while resting
- Rapid heartbeat
- Difficulty breathing
- Exercise intolerance
- Excessive coughing
It’s worth noting that the second and third conditions may be considered as different forms of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy which Persian cats are particularly susceptible to and this condition is examined in detail below.
A Closer Look at Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
Experts consider hypertrophic cardiomyopathy to be the most common form of heart disease which affects felines. According to Cat Health, the thickening of the muscles in the lower chambers of the heart (its ventricles) results in lesser amounts of blood entering the heart since they have lost their ability to stretch fully.
Hence greater amounts of blood enter the upper chambers (the auricles) resulting in their abnormal expansion. These occurrences affect the ability of the heart’s valves to function properly and also prevent the heart itself from pumping blood efficiently.
One of the greatest causes for concern for owners of Persian cats is the fact that this condition is notoriously difficult to diagnose. This is further complicated by the fact that felines, in general, are rather skilled at concealing signs of illness compared to most other pets.
However, it’s possible to observe a number of symptoms which have been categorized into early and advanced signs below:
Early Signs of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
- Rapid heartbeat
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
- Unusual heart sounds (murmurs, muffled rhythm)
Advanced signs of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
- Paralysis of the hind legs
- Persistent coughing
- Breathing heavily
Is There a Cure for Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy?
No there isn’t. VNC Veterinary State Hospital notes that affected felines may require lifelong medication to enable them to cope with the condition.
PetMD recommends protecting diagnosed pets from boisterous individuals and furry housemates and any circumstances it finds uncomfortable. It’s also important to ensure its surroundings are as tranquil and comfortable as possible to reduce the risk of heart failure and replace its meals with low sodium food.
The cat must also be watched carefully for the following symptoms:
- Pain/paralysis in the hind legs
- Disinterest in food
- Respiratory problems
What Preventative Measures May Be Taken?
Although it’s pretty difficult to go against the dictates of Mother Nature, we can do our very best to keep our Persians’ hearts as healthy as possible and improve their quality of life too.
The following steps are especially important in maintaining the cardiac health of these pets:
- Ensuring your cat gets plenty of rest.
- Diet and exercise – The ideal diet for your Persian’s cardiac health should include meals which are low in sodium and high in protein. Such a diet will assist its heart in functioning effectively. Getting a Persian to exercise may be a bit tricky especially if it’s ill. However, a bit of advice from your vet may prove particularly helpful in this regard.
- Regular checkups – Getting your vet to take a look at your Persian’s heart as regularly as possible will ensure that they’re best placed to spot any symptoms which may be pretty hard to detect and act early enough to prevent any fatal consequences.
- Special screening tests – Taking your Persian for specialist ProBNP testing may prove especially beneficial in ensuring early signs of heart disease can be detected.
Feline heart disease is commonly divided into two categories: congenital and adult-onset cardiac illness.
It’s also worth noting that Persians are particularly prone to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy which also happens to be the most common form of heart disease. Although it often occurs in felines between the ages of five and seven, it has also been known to occur as early as three months.
As is the case with all illnesses, it’s preferable to detect the presence of heart disease as early as possible. And although Persians like felines, in general, are pretty skilled at concealing illness, special screening tests, regular checkups at the vet and close monitoring will place you in the best position to pick up on early warning signs.
This combination in addition to the appropriate level of exercise as well as a diet which is low in sodium and high in protein will ensure your beloved Persian has the best chance of maintaining excellent cardiac health and enjoying a high-quality lifestyle.