I said I would tell you why Skip has to take so many pills, well the title says it all. He has Feline Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM). HCM is a very serious heart condition.
Last year, I noticed that Skip’s breath smelled and I knew that he needed his teeth cleaned and probably a couple pulled. So, I scheduled Skip an appointment with his vet to get a checkup, so that they could determine if he needed to get his teeth cleaned.
I was standing there chatting with the vet tech while the vet was listening to Skip’s heart. Usually the vet only listens for a bit, but she kept listening and listening. I stopped talking to the vet tech because I knew something was wrong.
The vet stopped and looked at me and said I hear a heart murmur. At first, I was like, a heart murmur? No problem. Both my mom and my grandpa have a heart murmur and they are just fine. I said, “OK, so what does that mean. Will he be ok?”
She gave me the gravest of looks and said that at this moment she did not know. Skip’s vet said that cats are great at hiding a heart murmur and usually by the time that they can hear it; it is too late and that many cats will pass away within months of the diagnosis. She said, “One thing you need to know is that you may come home from work to find he passed away during the day without any warning, but we are getting ahead of ourselves. We first need to do an x-ray to see how bad it is.” I looked at Skip and other than his teeth, Skip seemed perfectly normal to me which is the problem with this disease.
I immediately approved the x-ray. After what seemed like agonizing minutes of waiting for the x-ray to be taken and developed, the vet came in with the x-ray and was happy there was no fluid in his lungs. She also made note that the heart itself did not look bad. She told me that she hoped she was wrong, but that I needed to go and see a feline cardiologist.
She also said that Skip needed his teeth cleaned and probably two pulled, but that she could not operate until we knew the situation with his heart. She then wished me good luck. I was devastated. I held it together in the vet office, but once I got home, I lost it.
For me, Skip is my kid. I’ve been with him since he was 4 weeks old and to hear that he might have a disease that could take him in the next few months…whew! That is tough to hear. That was a lot to take when I thought all we needed was a teeth cleaning.
For the two weeks until the appointment with the cardiologist, I held Skip every chance I got. I babied him and made him feel special. My heart just wanted him to be OK and the only way I could keep an eye on him was to keep him in sight at all times. It wasn’t too hard because he usually follows us around anyway. What he didn’t expect was to constantly be picked up by boyfriend or myself when ever we saw him sitting alone.
Skip and I went up to the specialty clinic to see the cardiologist. They took my poor baby in the back and shaved his chest for an ultrasound and an echo-cardiogram. The cardiologist returned and told me that she sees a thickening of the heart wall and that he has HCM, but that currently the electrocardiogram looks fine. I had no idea what HCM was, so I asked what it was and what it means for Skip. Basically, the heart wall thickens until the blood flow slows and blood clots form. Those blood clots can dislodge and block the flow of blood. When the heart is no longer able to pump the blood or if a blood clot blocks the blood from flowing, the body will no longer function.
Here is a link to a pretty good document regarding HCM:
The cardiologist also said that she felt that Skip’s thyroid was enlarged and that he could have hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism can be a cause for the thickening of the heart walls because the heart is working overtime. She took some blood from Skip to determine the thyroid levels, but we had to wait for the results. The cardiologist put Skip on the medicines enalpril and plavix. She said that based on what she sees that we need to use plavix as a beta blocker. She explained it all out as to why Skip was on each medicine.
Let me just say for those who cats are diagnosed with HCM, your pocketbook is going to take a hit. From the tests to the medicines, everything is expensive. For me, I don’t really care about money. I just want my baby to get well.
I then asked what his outlook was, and she said that she needed to see us back in October and that she would answer that question then because she said some cats pass away within months and that she has a couple that are 5 years past their diagnosis. Basically, what she will do is compare ultrasounds to see how much worse the heart walls thickened and then she can make a short term prognosis. She said no matter what, we have to keep on top of disease and work in six month increments. I could see in her eyes that she was worried about Skip and that this was very serious.
She also told me that he needs to stay calm and to keep him out of stressful situations until we know more. Basically, she did not want his heart being overworked any more than it needed to be. Then she also said no table food at all and no treats. We are OK with no table food. He rarely received table scraps, and he rarely asked for them. However, no treats? Wow! Skip is in for a lifestyle change. She said that the treats for cats are filled with salt to make them taste good. Too much salt is bad for the heart and we do not need anything contributing to make his condition worse.
The cardiologist said that if Skip started having trouble breathing or if he had numbness in his back legs, to go straight to the vet. Either Skip’s own vet or to drive up to their emergency clinic would be fine, but that either condition needed attention immediately.
I left with a couple of prescriptions, a cat that was exhausted from his ordeal, a paper print out that the cardiologist makes for every client explaining every thing she just explained, and myself mentally tired. I took Skip home and went up to the pharmacy and got his scripts filled.
Now I had to wait for the results of the thyroid test which were going straight to the I-Cat vet to discuss my options regarding the thyroid.
I hate waiting for the results of tests…so dear reader even though this happened months’ ago, you must wait as well because this is a good stopping point. 🙂