Meet Howie- my adorable cream and white boy I rescued at 12 weeks of age. He has been in perpetual motion from the day I brought him home. If cats could compete in sports he would excel in the high jump! The boy has springs for legs!
Howie is the perfect example of an outwardly healthy young cat. He is 2 years old and has never shown any signs of being unhealthy. He has the perfect life of playing with my other cats, chasing things that don’t exist (cat people- you know what I am talking about!) and napping in laps. He is such a joy to be around. I love this little guy so much!
Imagine my concern when, during his annual physical exam, I heard a heart murmur while listening to his chest. It had to be nothing- right? I mean- he’s healthy. He runs. He jumps. He is a ball of energy! There is absolutely nothing wrong with him. He can’t have a heart condition!
I didn’t want to waste any time. I needed to do further testing to determine if his murmur is innocent or if he has heart disease. The next step I took was to have an echocardiogram performed. This is an ultrasound of his heart which is the best way to diagnose heart disease in kitties.
Unfortunately my sweet, hyper, ball of energy was diagnosed with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. The disease has already progressed to the moderate stage and he has started two different heart medications. I am broken hearted to learn my outwardly healthy boy has not mild, but moderate heart disease.
However, I am thankful I listened to his heart and discovered it now rather than in the later stages when it is more difficult to treat. I learned about his disease before he became clinically sick and I have an opportunity to intervene and slow the process. Yes- he will be on medication the rest of his life but I know the signs to look for and I can monitor progression of the disease. My prayer is he is able to live a long and healthy life.
So that’s my personal story. Without a physical exam I would not have diagnosed Howie’s heart disease. We often think of diseases affecting our older pets but the young ones can be affected as well. Moral of the story- have your young cat examined every year (and senior kitties twice a year)!