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Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy in Bengal Cats

A Bengal kitten stares with great focus
Bengal kitten captivates with dreamy eyes, gazing into the unknown with enchanting curiosity.

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is a condition of the heart in which the muscular walls of the heart are thickened. It is a disease that can affect any cat, dog, or even people. However, Bengal Cats are particularly predisposed to this condition. This article will cover signs and symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis. 

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy in Bengal Cats: Symptoms 

The most common first symptom of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the presence of a heart murmur. Murmurs are detected only through listening to the heart with a stethoscope, usually heard first in your veterinarian’s office. Bengal cats can go for a long time with no other symptoms, although some cats may develop such things as:

  • Lethargy 

  • Difficulty Breathing 

  • Fainting spells 

  • Decreased appetite

  • Weakness or paresis in the rear limbs

What is a Heart Murmur?

A heart murmur is an abnormal sound that your vet can hear through the stethoscope. The sound is caused by an abnormal flow of blood within the heart. Not all heart murmurs are serious, but because your vet cannot tell just by listening, it is important to have some diagnostics performed.  

Causes of Heart Murmurs

While hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in Bengal cats is one of the reasons for a heart murmur, there are others. 

There are generally three categories of heart murmurs in cats. 

  • Congenital heart abnormalities: These are heart conditions a cat has from birth. This could be something such as bad valves, a hole in the heart, or a defect in the connections between blood vessels in your cat’s heart.  

  • Acquired heart disease: Acquired means a cat was not born with this, but developed it. 

  • Secondary Heart Murmurs: These are heart murmurs that occur because your cat has another condition outside the heart. This category includes such things as anemia, hyperthyroidism, fever, and stress. 

Arrhythmias of the Heart

Two Bengal kittens posed to pounce any moment.
Two Bengal kittens lie in wait ready to pounce!

The condition of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in cats can lead to your vet hearing other abnormal sounds coming from the heart. Because the heart is thickened and cannot pump as effectively, the heart rate increases and can lead to a deprivation of oxygen. This, in turn, can cause arrhythmias or abnormal rhythms of the heart. The heart can beat too fast, too slow or irregularly. 

Signs of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Related Blood Clots

The development of a blood clot is one of the most frightening symptoms you can see in your cat. In cats, a blood clot can lodge in the bifurcation of the aorta, where the aorta splits into vessels to the right and left limbs. If it lodges there, your cat may lose the ability to use both hind limbs. Some common signs of HCM-related blood clots include:

  • Sudden weakness or paralysis in the hind limbs.

  • Pale and cold hind legs. If you feel your cats paws, they will be quite cold and the pads will appear almost white. 

  • Trouble breathing, taking deep, slow breaths or panting. 

  • Lethargy and reluctance to move.

  • Unwillingness to eat. This may be from the difficulty breathing or pain in the hind limbs.

If you see your cat with any of these symptoms, it’s an emergency and you need to go to your vet or emergency room right away.

A Bengal cat bathing in the sun looks onwards with the sun glancing off his eyes.
Zeus of Divinus Pride Bengals sunbathing with captivating golden eyes.

Diagnosis of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy in Bengals

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is a great example of why your cat should have regular vet visits. If a vet doesn’t listen to your cat’s heart, you will not know he has a murmur, until it’s too late. Diagnosis is based on:

  • A good exam by your veterinarian

  • Blood work

  • EKG’s

  • X-rays

  • An echocardiogram, an ultrasound of the heart

What is an Echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram is a completely painless procedure in cats. If your cat will lie still long enough, they do not even need to be sedated. A echocardiogram is just like having an ultrasound of any body part, but in this case, it’s of the heart. Sound waves are bounced off the heart and create an image of the heart on the screen. Thickened walls and a constricted volume of blood in one of the chambers of the heart are suspicious for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. That finding can be one of the other conditions listed above, but that’s why your vet does blood work and X-rays before the echo. 

Only by having all these diagnostics performed can your vet rule out the other conditions mentioned, such as anemia, hyperthyroidism, valve problems, etc. The echocardiogram is the only way to get a definite diagnosis of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. 

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy in Bengal Cats: Treatment 

There is no cure for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in cats. However, there are treatment options that can keep your cat comfortable and extend life by quite a long time, if it is caught early. 

  • Medications to control the heart rate and the ability of the heart to contract. 

  • A category of these medications, called diuretics, can decrease fluid build-up in the lungs, which happens in later stages. 

  • Blood clot formation can be a condition associated with HCM. Blood-thinners can help prevent those. 

  • A raw diet can help balance sodium levels and reduce strain on the heart. 

  • It is essential to follow the veterinarian's advice and adjust treatment plans as required, based on the Bengal cat's response and condition.

Prognosis for Cats with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

A Bengal kitten reaching for a toy with both front paws.
Bengal kitten with both paws all-in for the taking!

The prognosis for cats diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy varies from cat to cat, depending on how early the condition is diagnosed, the health of the cat, and how the cat responds to medications. Cats can live relatively normal lives and long lives with early diagnosis and treatment. However, those that aren’t diagnosed until their condition is severe can develop congestive heart failure, blood clots in the hind legs, and sudden death. 

By taking your cat to the vet for regular exams or anytime there are any signs your kitty isn’t feeling well, you can help guarantee the best possible outcome for your Bengal cat. 


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