What Is a Heart Murmur in Cats? [5 Causes + Treatment]

what is a heart murmur in cats

As soon as you adopt or purchase a cat, you make a vow to yourself that you will take care of it like a family member. Over time, the cat becomes an essential part of your house, and you invest your time and love into its upbringing. In addition, as a responsible cat owner, you make sure that your cat lives in a healthy environment.

Without any doubt, you try your best to keep your cat safe from life-threatening illnesses. But, unfortunately, a few health concerns remain silent for a long time. Let’s say, on one fine day, you take your cat to a vet for a regular checkup, and the vet finds out a heart murmur. The first thing that pops up in your vet’s mind is any underlying illness in your little furry friend.

If you have no clue what heart murmurs are in cats, fear not! This article briefs on heart murmurs in cats, the reasons for these murmurs, and their treatment. So, without any further delay, let’s get started!

What is a heart murmur in cats?

You may be familiar with abnormal heart sounds in humans since many people suffer from heart diseases that result in such unusual sounds. For example, a heart murmur refers to a strange heart sound, which is audible only through a stethoscope placed on the chest. If you regularly visit a professional vet for a routine checkup of your cat, they will be able to differentiate between normal and abnormal heart sounds.

Whenever there is disturbed or unsteady blood flow to your cat’s heart, secondary to any reason, your vet will be able to pick heart murmurs in your cat. Heart murmurs can be natural, also called physiologic, while sometimes they indicate some underlying pathology, and your vet must run some tests to diagnose the problem.

Usually, a vet can listen to only two types of heart sounds in your cat using a stethoscope: ‘lub’ and ‘dub’ sounds. But, any other sound besides the mentioned two raises the suspicion of heart murmurs and underlying disturbance in the circulatory system.

Furthermore, vets in different regions of the world have their criteria for ranking the intensity of the murmur. Some vets may use six-grade criteria, in which one refers to mild murmur and six means highly intense murmur. The mentioned ranking scale does not have anything to do with the underlying cause of the murmur.

What causes heart murmurs in cats?

As mentioned earlier, if your cat comes up with heart murmurs on a clinical examination, it could be physiologic or pathologic (underlying health concern.) Besides, since these abnormal sounds occur in the heart due to turbulent blood flow, it does not necessarily mean that your cat has a heart (cardiac) illness. Other systemic diseases may also involve heart and blood vessels that lead to heart murmurs in cats.

Let’s have a light on the possible causes that may result in heart murmurs in your cat;

1. Anemia

We can refer to different biochemical scenarios as anemia, like if your cat has low levels of red blood cells, low hemoglobin, or immature blood cells; all these conditions come under the category of anemia. However, no matter which type of anemia your cat suffers, one of the most common signs will be heart murmurs secondary to disturbed circulation.

2. Valvular heart defects

Unlike humans, who contain four heart valves only, you can see multiple valves in your cat’s heart. This is because valves in the heart act like automatic doors. These doors make sure that the heart keeps flowing at a constant pace without any interruption. However, if any valve in your cat’s heart gets injured or diseased, one of the most typical signs will be abnormal heart sounds.

3. Thickened cardiac walls – cardiomyopathy

One of the most common heart diseases in cats is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. To make the complex medical term simpler to understand, the disease causes your cat’s heart muscles (ventricles – that pump the blood forward) to thicken abnormally. Once the pumping muscles get concentrated, the heart will not receive a good amount of blood; neither will it pump adequate amounts to the rest of the body.

Different organs of your cat’s body demand appropriate oxygenated blood, and therefore, the heart’s condition worsens over time. If your cat has thickened heart walls, it will present heart murmurs secondary to disturbed blood circulation. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are the keys to your cat’s survival.

4. Raised blood thyroid hormones

Another reason for causing heart murmurs in your cat is high blood levels of thyroid hormones. You can also refer to the condition as hyperthyroidism. Thyroid hormones are essential for the normal regulation of the body’s metabolism. However, if they are present in excessive amounts, your cat will suffer from life-threatening diseases.

In addition to having heart murmurs, your cat will also present with weight loss despite increased appetite, insomnia, irritability, excessive thirst, etc.

5. Raised blood pressure

If your furry fellow is a senior citizen and comes up with heart murmurs, you may want to think about high blood pressure levels. Younger cats usually do not suffer from hypertension (high BP.) But, when it comes to old-aged cats, high blood pressure is one of the most common diseases they suffer from.

When your cat is hypertensive, it will present with heart murmurs and weakness, irritability, bleeding from nose, seizures, etc.

What does the ‘innocent’ heart murmur mean?

The vet of your kitten may tell you that it has an innocent heart murmur! Are you wondering what does the innocent heart murmur in kittens mean? Well, fear not! We have got you covered!

If your kitty is relatively young, like a month old, and the vet has found out an abnormal heart sound, the chances are that there is some underlying congenital heart disease. Congenital diseases are those that one is born with, be it humans or animals. Professional vets know very well when a murmur is innocent due to congenital heart disease, and they may tell you not to worry.

Please keep in mind that innocent heart murmurs in cats tend to go away or subside as they age! Therefore, you do not have to worry a lot since your cat does not have a systemic illness.

Treatment for heart murmurs in cats

The treatment of heart murmurs in cats depends on various factors, like your cat’s condition and the root cause of the murmur. First of all, to trace the cause of the hum, the vet may run necessary diagnostic tests like chest x-rays, ECG, blood tests, etc. Then, once the vet catches the cause, they will guide you about the treatment accordingly.

Sometimes, your cat may present with a heart murmur, but there are no other clinical signs along. In such a case, the vet will put your cat on regular follow-ups so that they can monitor your cat’s condition. Besides, if your cat has some underlying systemic diseases that have caused murmurs, the vet will refer you to a heart specialist.

Understandably, you cannot do much in such sensitive scenarios. Still, it is one of your utmost duties towards your cat to follow the instructions given by the vet see them regularly.

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In conclusion

Though heart murmurs in the cat are less occasionally painful, whenever you hear from the vet that your cat has abnormal heart sounds, your heart skips a beat! However, you do not have to worry a lot when you find out that your cat presents with heart murmurs. In this article, we have tried our best to summarize the causes of heart murmurs in cats and what you can do to help your kitty!

Hopefully, it will prove helpful!

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