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Feline Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)

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Tags: Feline Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, HCM, Health Problems, Health, Heart Disease

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The heart is organ responsible for pumping blood and distributing oxygen to the body's tissues. The right side of the heart pumps out blood which travels to the lungs and becomes oxygenated while the left side receives blood (already having oxygen from the lungs) and pumps it back into the aorta chamber of the heart. The pumping chambers of the heart are called ventricles.

Feline Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is a disease where the heart muscle of the left ventricle thickens (hypertrophy). The interior of the left ventricle may get smaller and less blood can be accumulated because of it. If the ventricle walls stiffen and contract, they will impair the heart's ability to fill with blood. During the diastole (relaxation period), if the ventricle cannot sufficiently relax, a build up of blood will occur causing the backup in the blood vessels of the lungs.

Different parts of the heart may lose the ability to properly process blood and in turn different diseases will result. Several diseases result from this malfunction such as congestive heart failure, pulmonary edema and more. Some cats with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy develop a heart murmur. Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is a last resort disease in the sense that it will only be diagnosed after all the other heart conditions have been disqualified.


One of the main causes of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is gene mutation. There is evidence to date to indicate that the autosomal dominant gene is passed on through genetics. It is seen frequently in certain families and breeds of cats. So far the exact gene has not been identified but cats whose parents both have the gene will also have Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. The cats which only inherited one gene from one parent will become carriers. The disease has been observed in the American Shorthair, Maine Coon cat. It operates much the same as when the disease presents itself in humans.

On the average, affected cats will show symptoms in their 5th year of life, though some do contract the disease when they are a year or two older. In the early stages the disease may not have any symptoms but then the onslaught of symptoms come all at once and in no time the cat will have heart failure and die.


The cat may be asymptomatic for the longest time and then suddenly experience behavior changes such as inactivity and listlessness. As the disease progresses, the cat will begin to have increasingly labored breathing. Some cats develop a heart murmur or accelerated heart beat. Blood clots in the hind legs can bring on lameness followed by leg paralysis, heart failure and death.


The best clinical tool for diagnosing the disease is the echocardiogram. This machine will measure physiological and functioning changes in the heart. The veterinarian may also use x-rays and electrocardiograms for more detail findings.

The veterinary cardiologist will administer other tests to check for hypothyroidism which could be the reason for the impairment of the heart muscles. If this proves to be the case, the cat will be treated for the hyperthyroidism and once that is cured the heart impairment will disappear as well.


Unfortunately there is no cure for Hypertrophy Cardiomyopathy and the disease is fatal.

However, if the disease is directly found to be a cause of something else, that disease will be treated in hopes of eliminating the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy.

An assortment of medications are administered for Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy; corticosteroids for the ventricle to assist with blood flow, a diuretic for congestive heart failure, drugs to prevent or break up blood clots, all depending upon the cat's particular symptoms.

Though this disease is fatal, if caught early enough when the cat is still experiencing a mild form of the disease, there is a good chance that it can live a longer life while in a veterinarian's care. The key is to get your cat to a veterinarian the moment you suspect any of the above mentioned symptoms.

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