Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the most common heart disease of cats.
HCM, is found in all animals including us humans, it is not a common disease. However, your animal can have a HCM scan one day with perfect results and then sadly and suddenly drop dead the next day from HCM. Thank goodness it is not common in any animal.
It is a heart muscle disease in which the papillary muscles (the muscles in the left ventricle that anchor the mitral valve) and the walls of the left ventricle become abnormally thickened. HCM is often a progressive disease, and a proportion of affected cats develop heart failure if the muscle hypertrophy and subsequent scarring of the heart muscle significantly affects heart function.
Cats with the disease may die suddenly and may develop a blood clot in the chamber above the left ventricle (i.e., the left atrium) that often then gets carried into the systemic arterial system, most commonly lodging in the terminal aorta, stopping blood flow to the rear legs.
All of our Breeding Cats are HCM Scanned.
Feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the most common heart disease in domestic cats; the disease process and genetics are believed to be similar to the disease in humans. In Maine Coon cats, HCM has been confirmed as an autosomal dominant inherited trait. Numerous cat breeds have HCM as a problem in the breed. The first genetic mutation (in cardiac myosin binding protein C) responsible for feline HCM was discovered in 2005 in Maine Coon cats. A test for this mutation (A31P) is available. About one-third of Maine Coon cats tested for the mutation are either heterozygous or homozygous for the mutation, although many of the cats that are heterozygous have no overt evidence of the disease on an echocardiogram (low penetrance). Some Maine Coon cats with clinical evidence of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy test negative for this mutation, strongly suggesting that another cause exists in the breed. The cardiac myosin binding protein C mutation identified in Maine Coon cats has not been found in any other breed of cat with HCM, but more recently another myosin binding protein C mutation has been identified in Ragdoll cats with HCM. As in humans, feline HCM is not present at birth but develops over time. It has been identified for the first time in cats as young as 6 months of age and at least as old as 7 years of age.
Clinically, cats with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy commonly have a systolic anterior motion of the mitral valve (see graphic). Cats with severe HCM often develop left heart failure (pulmonary edema; pleural effusion) because of severe diastolic dysfunction of the left ventricle. They may also develop a left atrial thrombus that embolizes, most commonly, to the terminal aorta creating acute pain and rear limb paralysis (see below). Sudden death can also occur but appears to be uncommon.
There is no cure for feline HCM. Many but not all cats have a heart murmur. Many cats that have a heart murmur do not have HCM. Frequently the first signs that a cat has HCM are tachypnea/dyspnea due to heart failure or acute pain and paralysis due to systemic thromboembolism. While medication is commonly given to cats with HCM that have no clinical signs, no medication has been shown to be helpful at this stage and it has been shown that an ACE inhibitor is not beneficial until heart failure is present (at which time a diuretic is most beneficial). Diltiazem generally produces no demonstrable benefit. Atenolol is commonly administered when a severe systolic anterior motion of the mitral valve is present.
Feline arterial thromboembolism (FATE) is a relatively common and devastating complication of feline HCM and other feline cardiomyopathies. The thrombus generally forms in the left atrium, most commonly the left auricle. The formation is thought to be primarily due to blood flow stasis. Classically, the thromboembolism lodges at the iliac trifurcation of the aorta, occluding either one or both of the common iliac arteries. Because this split is called the saddle, and is the most frequent location for the thrombus, FATE is commonly known as saddle thrombus. Clinically this presents as a cat with complete loss of function in one or both hind limbs. The hind limbs are cold and the cat is in considerable pain. Emboli may, rarely, lodge in other locations, most commonly the right front limb and the renal arteries.
Clopidogrel (Plavix) is used to try to prevent left atrial thrombus formation in cats with HCM and a large left atrium. The FATCAT study at Purdue University demonstrated that it is superior to aspirin for the prevention of a second thrombus from forming in cats that have already experienced a clot. Thrombolytic agents (e.g., tissue plasminogen activator) have been used with some success to break down an existing aortic thromboembolism, but their cost is high and outcome appears to be no better than giving a cat time (48–72 hours) to break down its own clot. Pain management is extremely important. The prognosis for cats with FATE is often poor as they are likely to have significant HCM already and a recurrent bout of FATE is likely. For this reason, euthanasia is often a valid consideration.
In July 2013, Rigo, a 42-year-old Western lowland gorilla, resident in Melbourne Zoo and father of Mzuri, the first gorilla born by artificial insemination, died unexpectedly as a result of HCM. The condition is not uncommon in male gorillas over the age of 30, and in many cases, there is no sign of the disease until the individual's sudden death.