While you may wish dearly that your feline companion is impervious to illness or health complications, they, like you, suffer from the same ailments. Unbeknownst to many, cats can have heart attacks. This occurs from the same blockage of blood flow a human heart surrenders to. In short: the valves and vessels of the heart form clots, which slowly decrease the volume of blood capable of passing through them, and eventually the heart is starved to the point that it reacts.
With that being said, it is important to note that heart attacks are rarer in cats, with heart disease being a more prevalent condition. Rare or not, it is paramount that owners know what symptoms present themselves in the case of a heart attack and what to do afterward. This knowledge could be the difference between life and death for your kitty.
Knowing the Symptoms of Heart Attacks in Cats
Recognizing a heart attack in a cat is difficult. The signs can vary and since, obviously, there is no real way of communicating with your companion, the symptoms can seem synonymous to others you’ve witnessed before. Being that it is the heart which is affected, identifying how quickly your cat’s heart is beating can dictate whether or not they’re having a heart attack. If the pulse is over 190, then this is extreme cause for concern and your cat should be rushed to the veterinarian.
Other signs include:
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
- Heavy panting
- Sudden lethargy or spasms (often paired with the above)
- Loss of appetite
- Excessive vomiting
- Fainting or seizures
- Paralysis (typically in the hind legs)
As you can deduce, these symptoms are married to a plethora of other conditions outside of cardiac arrest or heart disease. In which case, diagnosing this issue can be a fickle process. Typically, however, it is a combination of these symptoms paired with a racing heart that telegraph heart attack.
What Do I Do if My Cat is Having a Heart Attack?
First and foremost: if you suspect that your cat is indeed undergoing a heart attack, then take him to the veterinarian. Similar to humans, it is a life-threatening condition that needs to be treated immediately. Once at the veterinarian, they will immediately assess the situation to decide whether or not more invasive measures should follow.
Sadly, the reality is that cats do not like to demonstrate weakness. These animals are incredibly individualized. Their stubbornness forces them to mask any illness they may be experiencing simply to save face.
In which case, it is important that you take your cat for routine checkups at the veterinarian. If you suspect there is something wrong (especially if any of the above symptoms are occurring) then have him looked at. The vet can examine your little feline and ensure that the problem is not due to heart disease (or blockages). Chances are it is not.
Still, heart attacks in cats strike at random and 90% of the time the cause of death is only identified postmortem. When it comes to heart disease, although rare, it stands to be the most common reason for sudden death in cats. This is why keeping tabs on your cat’s health, keeping up with routine examinations, and ensuring he is living a healthy lifestyle is important.
Causes of Heart Attacks in Cats
Heart disease in cats is generally believed to be hereditary. While diet can certainly affect the way the cardiovascular system develops and ages (particularly if they are eating poor quality food or lots of fat) it is not commonly the cause of cardiac arrest. Taurine deficiencies, hypothyroidism, and certain blood-borne conditions can lead to cardiomyopathy (a disease which causes the heart to fail).
Yet, with that being said, again, heart disease is almost always genetic. And, like humans, cats are most vulnerable to this otherwise dormant condition to surface in their middle ages.
All in All
Spotting a heart attack in a cat is a difficult endeavor. Preventing one is a different story. With this knowledge, it is important to keep tabs on your cat’s health, continue with routine checkups, and ensure that he is living a healthy lifestyle with the best diet possible. Heart attacks can strike at random with little to no warning but by preparing for this tragic condition you can mitigate the chances of it ever happening.