Chronic Valvular Disease
What is Chronic Valvular Disease?
Chronic Valvular Disease is a degenerative disease usually found in older cats that results from the thickening of the heart valves – most commonly, the mitral valve located between the left atrium and left ventricle in the heart. The tricuspid valve is affected less frequently. The valve changes lead to chronic changes in heart function and eventually heart failure. This condition occurs more in dogs than cats.
How does my cat get Chronic Valvular Disease?
Genetics may play a factor, but specific feline breeds have not been identified. More often, the cause is associated with aging. As a part of the normal aging process, the sharp edges of the valves are thickened, distorted and stiffened. The valve then can’t close completely and secondary changes associated with abnormal blood flow within the heart can occur. Some cats with this disease may also develop pulmonary hypertension.
How do I know if my cat has Chronic Valvular Disease?
This is a sneaky disease that is hard to detect in the early stages. By the time you are aware that your cat has Chronic Valvular Disease, the damage is done. Your veterinarian will notice the first signs. These will usually be a heart murmur at a specific location on your cat’s chest. The loudness of the murmur will progress as the condition worsens. The first signs that you may notice are labored breathing or fainting. Unlike dogs, cats with this condition rarely cough. Early detection and treatment are imperative. Your veterinarian will examine your cat, take chest X-rays and blood samples to make the preliminary diagnosis. Additional diagnostic procedures that may be required include an electrocardiogram (EKG) and ultrasound in order to rule out other conditions.
What can I do about Chronic Valvular Disease?
Once diagnosed, treatment of chronic valvular disease is directed at slowing the progression of this incurable-but-controllable condition. Medications that work to make the heart a more effective pump, medications that keep fluid from accumulating in the chest, exercise alterations, and dietary modifications are all part of the treatment regime. Each case is evaluated as to its severity and the treatment must be determined for that particular case. This condition is progressive, incurable, and may eventually be terminal. Ensure that your cat does not over exercise or faces situations that cause labored breathing. Keep your cat at a healthy, lean weight because obesity can further tax the heart.
Are there certain breeds that get Chronic Valvular Disease more often?
Not in cats. This disease is not very common in cats, but can affect any cat of any breed.