What is Aortic stenosis?
This is an inherited condition in which a vessel leading from the left side of the heart is narrowed. As a result, the narrowing leads to a pressure buildup causing the blood to pump out of the heart at a faster-than-normal rate. It is also referred to as subvalvular aortic stenosis, or SAS for short. This genetic condition is more commonly seen in dogs and is very rare in cats.
How does my cat get Aortic Stenosis?
As a hereditary condition, it develops shortly after birth and clinical signs may not develop for awhile. In cats, it may develop as a result of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and the muscular charges that the heart goes through.
How do I know if my cat has Aortic Stenosis?
You may not know until your cat starts to show clinical signs. Before signs arise, your veterinarian may note a significant and specifically located heart murmur. As the heart is asked to work harder to overcome the abnormality, signs of congestive heart failure will develop: difficulty breathing, coughing, increased respiratory rate, and moist sounding lung sounds. Additionally, findings may include fainting or sudden death. Your veterinarian is the only one that can identify aortic stenosis. Currently, there is no blood test available to confirm diagnosis. Typically, a veterinarian will perform chest X-rays, an electrocardiogram (EKG) and an ultrasound of the heart to pinpoint a correct diagnosis.
What can I do about Aortic Stenosis?
Once diagnosed, treatment options vary. Surgery, although possible, is rarely done in cats because it has been found to not dramatically increase long-term survival. Medical management will be determined by the severity of the signs noted. Medications are directed to slow the progression or development of heart failure. Activity must be restricted since fainting and sudden death can occur with excessive exertion. Monitoring of progression via ultrasound is helpful. Mildly effected cats will live a full and normal life. Severely affected cats are at risk for congestive heart failure and have a grave prognosis.
Is there anything I can do to prevent my cat from getting Aortic Stenosis?
Careful selection of kittens from litters with prior history of SAS will decrease your chances of an affected kitten.
Are there certain breeds that get Aortic Stenosis more often?
This inherited condition is rare in cats, and there is no evidence of any specific breed being at greater risk.