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Irregular Heartbeat in Cats

Irregular Heartbeat in Cats

If your cat has an irregular heartbeat, it can be hard to notice right away as they are very good at hiding pain and medical issues. Today, our Vienna 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 out into the body.

Irregular heart rhythm, or cardiac arrhythmia, is important to take note of but 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 than others.

Irregular heart rhythms 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 beats.

Signs of Irregular Heartbeats

It is important to know the signs 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 signs and symptoms of irregular heart rhythms 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

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

Treating a Cat's Irregular Heartbeats

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, then treating the underlying disease will resolve the irregular rhythm.

Many medications can help control cardiac arrhythmia, some of which have side effects. In more serious cases, our Vienna veterinary cardiologists may recommend surgery. The most common procedure is the installation of a pacemaker for long-term and better control of the arrhythmia.

Is your cat showing signs of a heart condition? Contact our Vienna veterinary specialists as soon as possible.

New Patients Welcome 

Hope Advanced Veterinary Center is always accepting new patients! Our board-certified vets and specialists are passionate about restoring good health to Vienna's pets.

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(703) 281-5121