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Cardiomyopathy in 13 year old Maine Coon.

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
Need some help here, my oldest cat Lona, 13, just got back from her yearly checkup. Vet found a elevated heart rate say 210 bbm, about 15% weight loss.

So we did a check for hyperthyroidism, negative. Chest xray next, shows larger heart and possible cardiomyopathy, is so slight we cannot tell what is going on without a ultrasound. Do find a enormous amount of air in the stomach which was causing her to be a little grouchy.

So doctor says send her out for a ultrasound, I cannot see the heart being any bigger or smaller then other maine coon on the xrays I have looked at. She is happy as a clam right now and has shown no symptoms. She's 13 and I have never seen a cat that old who is just starting to show symptoms at this age. Most are dead by 5 or so, correct, or at least thats what my experience has been.

So I am at a impasse. She will not tolerate pills or shots period, I have tried I still have the scars from the stitches, her heart rate shots to the 250 bbm, and she hides and cowers in fear.

At 13 and just showing symptoms what is the long term survival rate, I have only seen one case at this age documented with no conclusion. I would prefer that she have a slightly shorter life of no shots or pills and comfort over gaining 3-6 months with pain for my benefit. Does that seem right.

The progression seems to take 3-5 years which would put her at almost 16-18 and that seems to be a blessed life for a cat. Maybe I am anthropomorphizing her to what I would want. Any idea's
post #2 of 4
All cardiomyopathys are not created equal. The severity and how they progress is going to be different for every cat. Unless you go for ever last test associated with the disease, you will not determine her prognosis.

I lost an 8 year old male to the disease. In his case, he had already thrown a thrombosis to his back legs and became mostly paralyzed from it. And he, like your cat, left me scarred every time I attempted to pill him. In his case, we had to go to an extreme with treatment to have a slight chance for him to recover. Any choice is hard, but his personality made it easier for me. The stress that I would put him under to treat his heart would only cause additional stress on his heart. We let him go when his time was up.

If you really want to know what Lona's prognosis will be, then you will most likely have to run tests beyond an ultrasound. Until you know how advanced it is, and more particulars about it, I suspect you wouldn't even know what treatment to give her. I really suggest a long heart to heart talk with your vet (if you trust them). Talk about her prognosis if you don't start any treatment, and the odds that other treatments will work. Would you stress her with medication if it only extended her life a few more months?

Don't fully trust what you read online about this disease. There is too much variation in it.
post #3 of 4
I have experience with my Siberian who died 4 years ago of HCM at age 3 and also recently with my 4 yo Siberian Caleb who, thankfully, after echo did not have HCM.
Anyway, I spoke at length with the cardiologist who did Caleb's echo about the pluses and minuses of medicating an HCM cat based on discussions I'd had with my cardiologist husband. In humans with HCM, many studies have shown that beta blockers like atenelol do not stop progression, but they do relieve some symptoms.
The Vet cardiologist agreed with my H that meds like atenelol have not been proved to slow the disease, but if the cat is symptomatic the meds make the cat more comfortable.
So, Caleb's cardiologist said he doesn't medicate HCM cats until they are symptomatic and that if pilling them stresses them out, then he doesn't recommend pilling them at all.
Based on what you say, my decision would be to avoid medicating unless/until the cat becomes uncomfortable, but you should, of course, speak with your vet since this is just my opinion.
post #4 of 4
It sounds like a complicated situation, so only your cat's cardiologist can really advise you.

Cardiomyopathies vary greatly, so it's impossible to extrapolate from one person's experience. Some are mild and require no treatment; sometimes the cat has had one his entire life and no one detected it before. It's not true that cats with cardiomyopathy are usually dead by 5; because there's such a range, there's no set life expectancy. One family cat had one all his life, and lived to be 15. My current cat has HCM and at age 6 or so has a nearly normal heart so long as he's on medication.

I certainly understand the choice not to cause an old cat stress by forcibly pilling or medicating.

But if your cat is prescribed atenolol, then you should know that it's a very tiny pill (even smaller if subdivided) and essentially flavorless and colorless. My cat has been on it for years, and happily eats the pill tucked into the center of a soft treat or (if you don't mind spending a bit more for treats) a pill pocket. He's excited to get his treat twice a day... so much so that if a human in the house takes a pill, he hears the pill bottle rattling and comes running with a hopeful look on his face. I'd tried to give him other medications before and had the usual troubles with him refusing to eat them no matter how they were hidden; the atenolol experience is completely different.

So ask your vet about possible courses of treatment. If it does turn out to be atenolol, your cat might gain years of increased health and enjoy the "pilling" process.
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