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Heart Murmurs in Cats

Heart Murmurs in Cats

A heart murmur in cats is not always a major worry, though it depends on the cause of these murmurs. Read along to find out about the causes, symptoms and the treatment for heart murmurs in cats.
Suketu Mehta
If you thought it's only humans who suffer from a variety of heart diseases, then think again. Cats, too, suffer from various heart diseases apart from other common health problems. Heart murmur is a type of heart disease that is more common among the older cats than the younger ones.

What Is a Heart Murmur

The heart is one of the most important organs of any living body. It is the organ which is responsible for the supply of blood, oxygen and other vital nutrients to all parts of the body. The 'lub-dub' sound in the heart is caused by the pumping and shutting of the valves in the heart. This is the sound which is heard by the vet with his stethoscope. A vet can easily detect other abnormal sounds apart from the normal pumping of heart in cats. These sounds are normally caused by the turbulent pumping of the heart and mostly replace the 'lub-dub' sound with a 'whosh' sound. Heart murmurs are also sometimes present in healthy cats where they do not have any physical problems in spite of the murmurs.

Types of Heart Murmurs

After the vet has detected an abnormal sound with his stethoscope, he has to grade the sound according to its level of intensity. Normally, an ECG is taken prior to this grading process which helps in determining the actual pattern of the heartbeats. The murmurs are then graded from 1 to 6, depending upon its volume, with 1 being the minimum and 6 being the maximum.
  • Grade 1 is the mildest as it can hardly be heard.
  • Grade 2 occurs mostly in specific areas of the heart and is pretty faint.
  • Grade 3 is usually heard by the vet immediately when the examination of the heart begins. The sound is widely projected.
  • Grade 4 is also heard right after the examination begins and is combined with a heavy vibration.
  • Grade 5 projects the loudest murmur.
  • Grade 6 is the one which can also be heard after the stethoscope is removed from the chest.
Detecting from the Rhythm

The rhythm of the heartbeat can also help distinguish different types of cardiac murmurs.
  • Plateau murmurs have a steady and uniform loudness, and they are a result of blood regurgitation through an abnormal vascular opening.
  • If the murmur gets louder and then softer alternately, it is referred to as crescendo-decrescendo. It arises from the turbulent forward flow of blood in the heart.
  • Diastolic murmurs have a characteristic sound which gets softer with time. This rhythm is named decrescendo.

Heart murmurs are often a sign of heart disease, though not always leading to something serious. Murmurs are also seen in kittens when they are young, but they normally disappear after six months or so. Its causes can be broadly classified into two categories - cardiac and non-cardiac.

Cardiac Causes
  • Murmurs heard in young growing cats (innocent murmurs) which are usually gone after 6 months
  • If there is a defect in the heart valves
  • If there are changes in the heart musculature (known as cardiomyopathy)
  • If the kitten is born with a heart defect or with a hole in the heart
Non-cardiac Causes
  • Fever
  • High blood pressure
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Low count of RBC

Generally, a vet during his examination of the cat, can properly determine a murmur. But there are certain symptoms which cannot be ignored:
  • Pale gums
  • Improper growth among kittens
  • Sudden weight loss among adult cats
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Abnormal breathing
In case your cat shows any of these signs, it is advisable to consult your vet immediately.

Available Treatment
  • It can be treated properly if it is diagnosed early. Once the vet is able to detect the murmurs, it is important to go for an extensive ultrasonic test. Your vet might also suggest you to see a vet cardiologist.
  • The treatment also depends on the causes of the murmurs. If the cause is high blood pressure or anemia, then medication is given accordingly. If the cause of murmurs is hyperthyroidism, then effective medication to control the excess hormones produced is prescribed. In case of heart murmurs in kittens, no medication is given because the murmurs normally cease after a certain period of time.
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a common heart disease among cats which is caused due to the enlargement of the heart walls. This could also lead to murmurs, but it can be treated if diagnosed properly.
  • A heart surgery is normally recommended only for congenital defects or for the ones which the kittens are born with.
  • If the murmur is not a result of any functional problem, there is no need for a treatment. In such cases there would be a need for a regular and periodical checkup by your vet. This will keep the vet updated on the case and also will help him diagnose if any serious complications are building up. Heart failure is very rare; so there is nothing much to worry about.
So, kindly do not ignore your cat's health, however minor the ailment may seem. In any case, for proper diagnosis and treatment, it is always advisable to talk to your veterinarian.

Disclaimer: This CatAppy article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Please consult your veterinarian before taking any treatment suggested in this write-up.
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