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How To Tell If Your Cat Has a Heart Murmur

Does your cat have a heart murmur?

Is your cat refusing to eat, and experiencing breathing problems or pale gums? If so, they may have a heart murmur. Here, our Somerset County vets explain the causes of heart murmurs in cats, signs, causes and treatment.

What Is a Heart Murmur?

A heart murmur may be heard by your vet when they listen to your cat’s heart. A heart murmur is caused by turbulent blood flow within the heart or the large vessels exiting from the heart. This results in an abnormal noise that can be heard by your vet when listening with a stethoscope.

Heart murmurs are assessed and graded according to particular criteria. Grades I-VI are recognized, with Grade I being the mildest, and Grade VI the most severe. The grading system is based largely on how loud the murmur is, but other factors are also considered, such as the area over which the murmur is audible.

It may sound strange but the grade of the heart murmur does not necessarily relate to the degree of severity of the underlying heart problem. Some severe heart conditions may not be associated with any heart murmur at all, and some quite loud murmurs may occur with relatively small defects.

Causes of Heart Murmurs in Cats

The presence of a murmur generally implies an underlying heart condition, although murmurs can sometimes have other causes.

In young kittens, ‘innocent’ heart murmurs may be heard as an incidental finding. These are usually no longer present when the kitten is older. Anemia is another cause of heart murmurs in cats, but the cats often show other signs of lethargy and anorexia as well.

Occasionally cats are reported to have incidental murmurs as adults, which is when the blood flow within the large vessels exiting the heart may occasionally be heard as a murmur.

Signs of a Heart Murmur

 The most common symptoms that are observed with a cat that has a clinically significant heart murmur are poor appetite, weight loss (or stunted growth in a kitten), breathing problems, pale gums, lethargy, or weakness.

If your feline family member is showing signs of a heart condition, make a veterinary appointment for your cat straight away. Following an examination, your primary care vet may choose to refer you to a cardiology specialist

Treating Heart Murmurs in Cats

When a heart murmur is first discovered in a cat, an investigation will be performed to find out the underlying issue. This may involve further diagnostic tests such as an X-ray of the heart or a cardiac ultrasound examination.

If however the cat is showing no other signs of a problem and is exercising normally, then your vet may suggest you come back for a second examination in a few months to reassess the heart murmur and see if it has changed.

Sometimes if the cat is well and the heart murmur is unchanged, a periodic examination will be recommended.

The only way to determine if there is any disease within the heart itself that may be causing the murmur is to perform a detailed ultrasound examination of the heart. This is completely painless and is normally performed in a fully conscious cat.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet. 

Are you concerned about any symptoms or behaviors that your cat is showing? Contact our Somerset County emergency veterinarians right away. We are available 24/7 to care for your feline friend when they need us most.

Caring for Pets in Somerset County

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