Sudden Death in Cats
JC (Jean Claude) was a big, chatty and very handsome ginger cat, full of character and very much an integral part of his family. He liked to sit on the dining room table to look out the window and observe the world outside.
One night he fell off from this table, landed on the floor below it, and died very quickly.
Sudden death in cats is not uncommon and there can be many reasons for it. Possible causes include trauma, exposure to toxins, urinary obstruction, and feline asthma but two of the most common reasons are heart disease called Feline cardiomyopathy or “heart muscle disease” and feline heartworm. However heart disease is the most frequent.
When humans think about heart disease, they imagine a lifestyle-related problem. Too many beers, too many sausages, too many cigarettes, too much time in front of the TV, and too little exercise over the course of a lifetime are the recipe for a human heart attack.
Heart disease is different in cats. The most common form of heart disease, cardiomyopathy, is not lifestyle related. That’s a good thing, since cats are natural couch potatoes. Cardiomyopathy is an organic disease that appears to have a strong hereditary component.
Cardiomyopathy can affect any age of cat ranging from 6 months upward. It often strikes young, seemingly healthy cats. And, shockingly, the first symptom is often sudden death. (Other possible symptoms include breathing difficulties, exercise intolerance, or blood clots passing into the legs.)
Cardiomyopathy often cannot be detected during routine physical examinations. Veterinarians listen to cats’ hearts during exams, but the hearts of cats with the disease often sound normal. The cats often will be symptom-free at home.
How to prevent Cardiomyopathy
Even though the disease is not easily picked up by a vet, it is a good idea to have your cat’s health checked on a regular basis.
If you are concerned, talk to your vet. He or she can discuss your cat’s risk and determine whether diagnostics should be performed.
Owners of cats who suddenly and unexpectedly pass away may want to talk to their vets about an autopsy to determine the cause, especially if related cats also live in the house.
RIP dear JC. You were, and still are, very loved.
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