Heart attacks in cats are much different than they are in humans, and will show you some very early warning signs if you understand what to look for.
Cats very rarely suffer from what would be considered a true heart attack by definition, but they do indeed suffer heart attacks.
It is very important not to be confused by the term true heart attack as this is how a heart attack is described in people, not in cats.
If you understand the early warning signs, you may just possibly cave your cats life.
Heart attacks in cats are different than in people simply because they do not experience what is referred to as myocardial infractions that are the result of unhealthy life styles that include diets that are high in fat.
However, it is extremely important for cat owners to understand that a true heart attack being suffered by a cat is a theory that is yet to be proven by the medical community.
Myocardial infarction, also known as MI, is most commonly associated with coronary artery disease.
The myocardium itself is a muscular tissue in the heart and it receives nutrients and oxygen from the coronary arteries.
This process is the same in cats as it is in humans.
The coronary arteries in your cat are small blood vessels which bring the blood out of the main artery into their body, known as the aorta.
If the coronary arteries start to narrow or actually become blocked, it is usually the result of fats that have hardened into plaque like qualities.
When this occurs, it interrupts the blood flow to the myocardium which is than technically an infraction.
This area of the muscle than stops functioning and is usually the source of abnormal heart rhythms that are referred to as arrhythmias.
Actual true types of heart attacks in cats will be dictated by size of the infract itself, the area of the heart that is involved, and what type of blockage it is.
If the blockage is partial, it will result in chest pains, if it is severe, it can result in instant death. It is at this point that a true heart attack in people and heart attacks in cats gets its separation.
Your cat processes fats much differently than you do as their diet is much different. This is one of the major reasons that you should be very careful about giving your cat table scraps.
Even on a diet that would be very high in fats, cats are extremely resistant to any type of coronary artery blockage or disease.
It could be argued that a cat that has diabetes may be at risk of this occurring, but that is also not yet proven.
However, there is one condition where a true heart attack may affect your cat; cardiomyopathy.
Myocardial infractions have been suggested for several years now with cats that have this condition, as it thins the heart muscles in several areas of their heart.
It is also a theory, but just that, a theory, that it could also be related to blood clots.
True hearts attacks are extremely rare in cats, but sudden death, collapsing, and seizures caused by heart problems are not.
Trying to explain to an owner that their cat most likely died from a heart complications but it was not true heart attacks will not lessen the pain of suddenly losing your cat.
Heart attacks in cats true or not, will in most cases not give you a lot of warning.
However, there are several symptoms that you can watch for and if any of these do occur, you should treat them very seriously.
Fainting and Seizures
Heart attacks in cats are often preceded by what is referred to as syncope, which is a situation where your pet will either collapse or suddenly faint.
This is never a normal situation and should be taken extremely seriously.
Syncope is almost always the result of a loss of oxygen, low blood pressure, rapid or very slow heart rhythms, or blood clots that have formed in your cat.
When cats faint, they are usually back to normal in a very short period of time.
However, there is a huge difference with your cat and chest pains in people; they cannot tell you they just had chest pains.
When your cat does faint, it can last for just a few seconds or for several minutes.
You may not see it at all, but if you do, here is what you will see.
Your cat will appear weak or suddenly have stiff limbs, and this is not a sign that they may just be sore from an exercise.
It is a sign that their blood flow is not functioning properly. If your cat has an actual seizure, it can also be easily mistaken for fainting.
However, there is a major difference; they will not return to normal in just a few minutes.
A seizure generally requires several hours for your cat to return to normal.
Also, if it is a seizure, you will see jerking motions by your cat. This is a situation where they may have just narrowly missed a heart attack and you should seek immediate professional attention.
Rapid Heart Rate
An abnormal rapid heart rate is referred to as tachyarrhythmia, and is one of the most telling signs that your cat may be on the verge of a heart attack.
Heart attacks in cats are usually preceded by this condition as well as a very sudden and erratic behavior.
This erratic behavior is almost always in the form of a very sudden hyperactivity.
If you understand this symptom, rather than wonder what possesses your cat suddenly, it should send you all kinds of warning signals.
This hyperactivity will then be followed by panting, shortness of breath, or wheezing. Sadly, this actual condition is most often noticed by veterinarians and not owners.
Dogs pant; cats do not, and if you ever see your cat pant they may literally be on the verge of suffering a heart attack.
Slow Heart Rate
Heart attacks in cats can also show you another sign, which is referred to as bradyarrhythmia. This is a condition where your cat’s heart rate suddenly becomes very slow.
If it every bit as abnormal as a fast heart rate, and can heave several negative impacts on your cats overall health including the beginning of a heart attack.
This symptom is very difficult to identify and as you cat starts to age, is one of the major reasons you should check their heart rate at least once a month.
Identifying heart attacks in cats is quite easy for your veterinarian, and the major reason you should seek immediate attention if you see any of the signs.
Your veterinarian can take images of your cats heart to look at their muscles and inspect for thinning, look for any type of blockage, or identify any blood clots that have formed.
However, the old fashioned method of listening to your cats heart is still considered one of the best at initially identifying the threat.
It is a fact that cats very seldom suffer what would be considered a true heart attack, but when it comes to potentially meaning the difference between life and death, the word true becomes absolutely meaningless.
What is true is that despite all the misconception, cats can and do suffer heart attacks in their world, but they cannot tell us they are hurting.
There is also one other very true fact about this condition. If your cat is obese, despite the way the metabolize fat, they are prime candidates for a heart attack.