What Does an Enlarged Heart Mean for Cats?

An enlarged heart in cats is a common sign of heart disease. There are several types of heart disease that can occur in cats and the different diseases can cause special structural changes in the heart. Below we will review the signs of an enlarged heart in cats, causes of an enlarged heart, tips for diagnosis of the underlying heart disease, and what you can do at home.

Signs of an Enlarged Heart in Cats

Signs of heart disease can vary depending on the severity of the disease. In early stages of heart disease, cats can appear normal. Some cats will have very subtle symptoms that may progress over time. Signs of heart disease in cats may include:

Some pet owners may attribute the subtle changes associated with heart disease in cats to changes to age in older cat or maturity in younger cats. As the heart disease progresses, there may be progressive weight loss, trouble breathing which can cause an increased breathing (respiratory) rate or increased effort. If you believe your cat has an enlarged heart or is having any difficulty breathing or is in pain, please see your veterinarian immediately.

Heart disease can be a cause of sudden and unexpected death. Learn more about Sudden Cat Death: Understanding Why it Happens.

Causes of Enlarged Hearts in Cats

There are several causes of an enlarged heart in cats. They may include:

How Enlarged Hearts in Cats are Diagnosed

An enlarged heart in cats can be diagnosed by the following methods:

Homecare: What You Need to Do at Home

Please see your veterinarian for all routine physical examinations and follow-up testing. If your cat is diagnosed with an enlarged heart, it is critical to follow your veterinarian’s recommendations for additional testing such as the ones listed above. Chest x-rays and an echocardiogram can be important to determine the underlying cause for the enlarged heart which will help determine the best treatment options and help you understand the prognosis. Referral to a board-certified veterinary cardiologist is often the best option to optimize your cats care.

If your cat has an enlarged heart, it is important to monitor your cat for any trouble breathing, exercise intolerance, weight loss, decreased appetite and the other symptoms listed above under “Signs of an Enlarged Heart”. If you see any changes in your cat, you should see your veterinarian immediately.

Most causes of an enlarged heart cannot be prevented other than heartworm disease. Feline heartworm disease can be prevented with monthly prevention medications such as Revolution®. Please discuss heartworm prevention recommendations with your veterinarian.

Cats with heart disease should not be used for breeding.

Additional Articles of Interest Relating to Enlarged Hearts in Cats: