Whether you already have Bengal kittens or you are looking to acquire one or some, it is vital to have a clear picture of what taking care of them is like and the possible challenges that you might face with them. One thing that you are likely to come across when making your findings is a disease called Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). It is a common heart disease that affects cats, and while you may be thinking of doing all that you can to prevent it in your cat, it is widely believed that it is an inherited disorder.
The symptoms are not the same in every cat, but it is common to find a heart murmur in every cat that has this disease. The disease makes the muscle of the heart thicker, which leads to stiffness of the heart muscles and, thus, poor functioning of the heart. If the condition becomes worse, the thickened heart muscle blocks blood flow and makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood efficiently. If the disease is detected early and properly treated, there is the possibility of an improved prognosis for survival. So, before getting your Bengal kittens or even any domestic kitten, you have to make sure they undergo HCM testing. Although it may be hard to genetically test a Bengal cat for HCM because symptoms are not only hard to detect, they may not be there today, and they may show up tomorrow. HCM is more common in cats aged between five and seven years, but reported cases have shown that cats between three months and 17 years old can have this disease.
Cause of HCM
HCM is believed to be caused by the genetic mutation of the gene responsible for the growth of the heart muscle. Therefore, it is n hereditary disease.
Symptoms of HCM
HCM symptoms vary, and this is because of different genetic mutations and how severe the disease has become in individual cats. In most cases, diagnosis happens when the cat is not showing any symptoms, but during physical examinations, a veterinarian discovers that the cat has an irregular heartbeat or a heart murmur. If a cat shows signs of this disease, some of the symptoms may include sudden loss of function of the limbs as a result of blood clots blocking the free flow of blood to the limbs, signs of congestive heart failure (such as short breaths, difficulty in breathing, increased respiratory rate, loss of appetite, changes in behavior such as seclusion), stroke and in extreme cases, acute sudden death.
If you suspect your cat to be suffering from undiagnosed HCM because you have observed irregular heartbeat or a heart murmur, take him/her for a physical examination right away. This physical examination should include chest x-rays, blood pressure assessment, ultrasound examination of the heart (echocardiogram), and electrocardiogram (EKG).
Treatment of HCM
There are different approaches to treating HCM, and they all depend on how severe the disease is at the time of diagnosis. Currently, some of the medications being used to treat HCM are drugs that reduce the heart rate and help the heart relax better, such as calcium channel blockers or beta-blockers. Some other medications used for treatment include anticoagulants, platelet inhibitors, and drugs that make the blood thin to prevent clotting as well as diuretics to keep fluid buildup under control. A cat with HCM may be diagnosed with one or more of these drugs, depending on the condition and severity of the disease.
The prognosis for cats living with HCM varies as some live symptom-free for many years while the disease progresses rapidly in others, and their symptoms develop rather quickly. Patients may also display symptoms even without suspicion of heart disease in the past. Once a cat gets to the stage of congestive heart failure, the life expectancy drops to between six and eighteen months.
Get your cat’s primary care veterinarian to carry out a physical examination on him/her as well as any other tests if he/she shows symptoms of HCM or has a heart murmur. With these tests, you will be able to determine if you should take your cat to a veterinary cardiologist to carry out further tests or treatments.