My own personal experience: The silent killer – heart disease in cats

Dear Friends,

I wish to offer some advice if I may to all who share their lives with cats. As a result of my recent experience with our beloved Asrai, it is obvious that yearly routine vet health checks are not enough. It is clear that it doesn’t matter how healthy a cat appears on yearly vet examinations and it doesn’t matter how closely you observe them from day to day, heart disease can be present for years and asymptomatic. Therefore, please consider getting a diagnostic heart ultrasound to detect heart disease. Heart disease is a silent killer of cats and please note it is also not uncommon in cats. I had never heard this from any vet before and we’ve seen many vets. Feline heart disease often goes asymptomatic for years until end stage where it manifests suddenly and then it’s a rapid decline. Unless a cat has an obvious heart murmur upon examination or some very obvious abnormality, heart disease will not be detected.

Asrai enjoying herself on the warm granite on a soft summer’s day Dec 24, 2011

Most cats who have heart disease have no obvious problems and they can look completely healthy. Asrai (7 1/2 years old) was the most energetic and vibrant individual one could imagine. She showed absolutely no signs of illness or abnormalities in any of her vet checks annually or at any other time until 10 days before her death. Sadly, her cardiac disease only manifested at end stage where one cannot do anything to address it.

So just to be clear, unless there’s some very obvious heart problem at vet checks and this is very unlikely, it can only be detected with an echocardiogram. It will not be

One of the last photos of our beloved Asrai 20th Feb 2012

detected with chest x-ray either unless there’s very obvious advanced disease. Once it is detected via an echocardiogram, depending on its progression, one can most likely manage it with medications — ACE inhibitors and diuretics.

Feline heart disease cannot be cured, but if caught early, it can be managed and cats can live very normal and healthy lives for many years. Genetic heart disease usually manifests at end stage around 7 years old. So please consider getting this fairly simple preventative diagnostic procedure for any cats who share your life. The earlier, the better. Ask your vet to order one.

End stage symptoms were coughing, which turned into almost instantaneous lung congestion and audible crackles and wheezing (relieved temporarily by ACE inhibitor and diurectic), then followed closely by anorexia, then at the very last stages vomiting, weakness of limbs, pulmonary oedema.

Asrai relaxing on the table Nov 2011

Up until 10 days before Asrai succumbed to this disease (4th March 2012), Asrai was running around madly, jumping, playing, eating well and completely vibrant and full of energy. Needless to say, it was a terrible shock for us and it was incredibly traumatic.

Asrai catching some rays on the granite Dec 22, 2011

Asrai catching some rays on the granite Dec 22, 2011

Our beloved Asrai’s buriel place under a Eucalyptus tree on top of the hill overlooking the river 5th March 2012. Tibetan Stupa, incense and candles.

We miss our beautiful and beloved Asrai terribly, and we are so grateful that we were able to share her sweet life with her.

And please friends don’t forget that *all* other animals love life. *All* other animals  deserve at least one right — the right not to be used as property and veganism is the step to taking that right seriously. Let’s stop participating in violence. Let’s stop eating, wearing and using other animals. Please go vegan and please foster and adopt nonhuman animals from shelters, in particular elderly and disabled animals.

To find out more about veganism —


Filed under cat health, social justice, veganism

3 responses to “My own personal experience: The silent killer – heart disease in cats

  1. John Hanna

    I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for the information on heart disease in cats. I will be getting the vet to do a heart ultrasound on my two children (yes, they are cats, but they are my kids).

  2. Very sorry to hear of your loss. It’s also important for people to remember that cats are susceptible to heartworm disease, like dogs, but it often goes undetected until it is too late. It is spread by misquitos, so even indoor cats can get it. In dogs it is treatable, but not in cats. Heartworm pills are available, but most people don’t want to go through the trouble of giving them. As a vet tech, I hate to see people lose their pets, and I hope that people will learn more about heart diseases in cats, so that they can do everything possible to prevent this kind of loss. Thank you for getting the info out there.
    Remember everyone, ask your veterinarian questions, and ask YOUR doctor questions too! Make health a proactive priority 🙂

    • Yes good point about being proactive. We have always been proactive with our own health and the health of the nonhumans we live with. We always ask plenty of questions and do our own research. We have also given the cats who share with us worming medication (which includes heartworm prevention) on a regular basis.