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Irregular Heartbeat in Cats

Irregular Heartbeat in Cats

Cats are very good at hiding problems, so even large issues like a heart condition can be hard to identify. Today, our Santa Cruz vets discuss the causes, signs, and treatment of irregular heartbeats in cats.

Irregular Heart Rhythms in Cats

The heart is controlled by an electrical conduction system which controls the heart rate. This conduction system generates impulses, or waves, which flow through the muscles of the heart. A healthy heart muscle then contracts and pumps blood through the arteries and throughout the body.

Irregular heart rhythm, or cardiac arrhythmia, is important to take note of, but it is not always a serious condition. An irregular heartbeat occurs from time to time when a cat is under stress, nervous, or scared. Some breeds, like Persians, Maine Coon cats, and Himalayans tend to be more prone to irregular heart rhythms.

Irregular heartbeats affect many cats and are characterized by an abnormality in the cycling of electrical impulses that regulate the heart's beating. This causes the heart to beat either too fast or too slow or sometimes, to skip a beat.

Causes of Irregular Heartbeats

The possible causes for an irregular heartbeat can vary but here are some of the most common reasons.

  • Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • An imbalance of electrolytes
  • Anemia 
  • Poor reaction to drugs
  • Birth defects
  • Low magnesium levels
  • Taurine deficiency
  • Low blood oxygen content
  • Heart cancer
  • Heart disease 
  • Pancreatitis
  • Heartworm infection
  • Fever
  • Hypothermia
  • Ingestion of toxins

Signs of an Irregular Heartbeat

It is important to know the symptoms of an irregular heartbeat in cats so that you know what to do and when to bring your cat in to see the vet. Common symptoms of irregular heart rhythm include: 

  • Heart beats too slow
  • Heart beats too fast
  • Heart gallop
  • Heart murmur
  • Physical weakness
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of consciousness 
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Pale gums
  • Loss of appetite

Treating Irregular Heartbeats in Cats

Most cats will be treated on an outpatient basis. Patients with an electrolyte imbalance will be hospitalized to receive intravenous fluid therapy. If an underlying cause of the arrhythmia is found such as kidney disease or hyperthyroidism, treating the underlying disease should resolve the irregular rhythm.

Many medications can help control cardiac arrhythmia, some of which have side effects. In more serious cases, your vet may recommend surgical procedures by a veterinary cardiologist. The most common procedure is the installation of a pacemaker for effective, long-term control of the arrhythmia.

Is your cat showing signs of a heart condition? Contact our Santa Cruz vets right away to book an appointment.

Now Welcoming New Patients

Companion Animal Hospital is currently accepting new patients! Our friendly vets are experienced in caring for the needs of Santa Cruz's companion animals including cats, dogs, and exotic pets. Contact us today to schedule your pet's first appointment.

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