Heart disease in young cats seem to be increasing, at least based on anecdotal reports I’m receiving. I’ve heard of several instances of seemingly healthy cats between the ages of 2 and 5 dying suddenly, or requiring euthanasia, from heart attacks or related conditions. Is this a recognized trend, and do we know what causes heart disease in cats, especially in cats so young? How can we protect our cats from heart disease?
Heart disease in cats generally is caused by a syndrome called cardiomyopathy. The muscle of the heart does not function properly in cats with the syndrome. This can lead to heart failure or other serious complications including sudden death.
Feline heart disease is much less common now than several decades ago. That is because one of the causes of heart disease in cats was discovered to be a dietary insufficiency of an amino acid called taurine. Taurine is now routinely added to most feline diets.
Hereditary causes are involved in most cases of feline heart disease in current times. Breeds such as Maine Coons and Persians have known predispositions to cardiomyopathy. However, the syndrome can strike any breed of cat. It also affects non-purebred individuals.
Modern genetics hopefully will dramatically reduce the incidence of feline cardiomyopathy in the near future. I, for one, would be very happy never to see another case of it. The disease is not highly treatable and it frequently strikes young cats who otherwise would have most of their lives ahead of them.