Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Feline heart murmurs: When cat hearts make weird noises

Cats sitting on scratchers outside
Both of these old dudes have heart murmurs.
Jasper and Beorn are a little older than 12, and while they're not littermates, they do seem to share one genetic similarity: They both have heart murmurs. Neither show any signs of discomfort, but at the same time, it's something worth a bit of attention.

Veterinarians like to code their diagnoses by severity, providing their clients with a little more information about how serious a problem might be. Heart murmurs, for example, are graded on a scale of 1 to 6, with 1 at the low end.

At the moment, Beorn has a Grade 3 murmur and Jasper has a Grade 2-3 murmur. This puts them smack in the middle of the severity level, meaning it's something we might need to watch, but perhaps not something we'll need to stay up nights worrying about.

Neither of these cats show any signs of discomfort at all, and they both run and play just as vibrantly as do our cats who don't have heart murmurs. But, since I know that their hearts are under stress, I use a little caution when I whip them into the vet. I don't like the idea of putting them under anesthesia if I don't have to, as this could tax their hearts, and I watch them closely for distress when they are at the vet as stress can also make the heart go a little wild. A slow, relaxed, at-home life seems best, since this issue is in play.

In addition to having heart murmurs, these guys are also a little fat. They love their food, and they are also a little less likely to move around in the wintertime when the air is cold and damp. In the last year, they've both added a pound or two, and that weight needs to come off ASAP. Starting today, they'll be going on a little kitty diet so I can shave off some pounds and reduce the amount of work their hearts need to perform.

Reading about heart murmurs can be a little scary, especially since some articles seem to suggest that heart murmurs are a sign of very serious medical problems that could lead to death, but there are a few good sources for further research including this one and this one and this one. Happy reading!