The first I had heard of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy was when one of the I Love Ragdoll Facebook Page members posted a picture of her Ragdoll that died recently (see posts main image). Sharing her Facebook post, a few other members commented saying that they too had lost a Ragdoll to Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM). So what is HCM and should you be concerned about your Ragdoll?
What Is Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy?
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is a type of heart disease that is a very common cause of sudden death in indoor cats. The lining of the heart walls thicken, resulting in it losing its ability to pump at its full capacity. As the heart pumping chamber loses volume, it isn’t able to pump as much blood around the body. Any disruption to the hearts rhythm can then cause spontaneous death.
The exact cause of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy isn’t known but is thought to be hereditary. It is often found as a secondary disease to thyroid trouble and high blood pressure. Therefore a good vet will probably do further investigation if your Ragdoll is diagnosed with HCM.
Early Signs Of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
Whilst there are signs of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, symptoms tend to be vague and difficult to detect without having tests performed by a vet. Many cats have been known to simply die without warning. However, some cats may exhibit symptoms and these might include:
- Loss of appetite
- Increased sweating
- Weight loss
- Breathing difficulties or appearing to pant after exercise or excitement
- A distended abdomen
- Collapsing or seeming weaker than normal
If you see any of these symptoms mentioned, you should speak to your vet without delay.
Diagnosis Of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
Start by explaining to your vet why you suspect your Ragdoll has HCM. List the symptoms and when you have observed them. A vet will then perform a variety of tests on the heart and surrounding area. These tests are likely to be a echocardiogram, chest x-ray and an ultrasound of the heart. This should reveal any rhythmic problems with the heart, blockages, any fluid build-up and any other breathing issues. The vet will probably perform tests on the thyroid gland to ensure that’s functionally correctly.
Based on the results of these tests, your vet may prescribe medication and/or a routine check-up every six months to see how the heart is reacting. Even if your vet doesn’t find any evidence of HCM, it would still be wise to monitor your Ragdoll with routine vet visits.
Treatment Of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
Treatment of your Ragdolls condition will depend on what symptoms they have shown and how far along the HCM is. Drugs are usually prescribed to aid the function of the heart. These will ensure that the heart is able to contract and relax more easily. Many of the drugs used to treat HCM in cats are also used by humans. However, it’s important that a vet prescribes any dosage and the actual medication.
Types Of Drugs Used To Treat HCM In Cats
- Beta Blockers – these are used to slow the heart rate, effectively giving the heart more time to complete the pumping action. These do however come with a number of possible side-effects, including muscles spasms in the airways and low blood pressure.
- Calcium Channel Blockers – similar to beta blockers in that they slow the heart rate, calcium channel blockers reduce the amount of calcium that can get into the heart cells that control the contraction of the heart. By taking these, your cats heart will contract at a much slower rate.
Aspirin also helps reduce the formation of clots. By thinning the blood, the heart is able to pump the blood through easier. This helps eradicate any disturption to the hearts rhythm.
There are specially developed food ranges for cats with early HCM and those that help support existing conditions. Hills offer a great range of wet and dry food.
Your vet may also prescribe that your cat have a certain number of hours rest a day. This would involve putting your cat in a cage so that they are forced to rest there. This doesn’t sound particularly nice but something like this I found on Amazon might be more comfortable than a cold steel cage!
Ragdolls & Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
WebMd suggests that Ragdolls, amongst other breeds, show a familial inheritance to HCM. This means that the genetic make-up of a Ragdoll, make them more prone to HCM than the average cat.
It is possible to have a test performed on your Ragdolls genes, to see if the mutated gene linked to HCM is present. This would enable your vet to determine how at risk of developing HCM your Ragdoll is. The Veterinary Genetics Laboratory offer tests for Ragdoll owners and breeders to see where they stand on HCM.
Although I haven’t read this anywhere, the fact that indoor cats seem to be more prone to HCM makes one think it might be something to do with how much exercise outdoor cats get in comparison to indoor cats. Or how indoor and outdoor cats adapt to their environments. It would be interesting to see a study of indoor and outdoor Ragdolls and how prevalent HCM is within each group.
Paying For HCM
I have always had my Ragdolls insured with PetPlan. My policy ensures that should one of my Ragdolls develop HCM, the tests and any prescription drugs are covered for their entire life. Diagnosis and treatment of this disease could be costly and being insured would help with any financial burdens.