What to Expect from a Feline Cardiology Appointment

by K Marie Alto August 11, 2019 3 min read

Tuxedo cat receiving an ultrasound for heart disease

After some routine bloodwork revealed a shocking elevation in the NT-proBNP – an indicator of heart disease, we scheduled an appointment with a cardiologist per our primary veterinarian’s recommendation.  When the appointment finally arrived, we were off to a new clinic with new smells and sounds.  My Beany girl seemed extra stressed on this car ride.  She always cries in this car, but on this ride, she began to pant.  I imagine my nerves weren’t helping the situation.

The Exam and Blood Pressure

Once back in the exam room they did the standard weight, and body checks, then they took her blood pressure.  This is fairly uncommon for younger fur babies, so you may not have seen this performed.  Having older kitties I was used to this being a part of our annual check-ups, but things were a little different at this specialist.  At our primary, a small baby cuff is placed around the forearm and gooey stuff is placed on the paw pad to connect with the probe on the doppler ultrasound machine.  As you may imagine, this is not a very pleasant experience for a kitty, so there is a lot of wriggling to free to wet paw.

This was the first time I had seen blood pressure checked using the tail.  It was the exact same concept as the forearm, but the Vet Tech said they find it tends to be a little less annoying to the kitty and sure enough she was right!  I gave Beany lots of rubbies and scratches during the preparation and she only made one little meow protest when the goo went on her tail.  She stayed still and relaxed (all things considered) during the test.  Normal blood pressure?  Check! 

Echocardiogram Prep

The echocardiogram was next.  I knew she was going to be awake for the test and I was pleased to hear that she wasn’t going to be confined to the “cone of shame.”  We moved to another room with very dim lighting and an ultrasound machine.  A Tech wrapped a towel around Beany’s chest/head to stabilize her and also held her front legs while another Tech supported her back and held her rear legs.  They got her into position so quickly I don’t think Beany even knew what was happening.  It was only after she was restrained that her tail began to flicker around showing her annoyance.  The process went so smoothly there was no hissing or growling, I was impressed!

More Goo and Probing

It was time to finally see our baby’s heart.  The doctor applied a little alcohol to separate the fur on her chest then added the water-soluble gel to provide contact with the ultrasound probe.  Throughout the test, the doctor explained exactly what we were seeing and what and why he was taking measurements.  We started with views as Beany laid on her right side and then switched to the left to take some final pictures and measurements.  It was really fascinating and such a relief that Beany seemed so unbothered.  Aside from the Doctor being so incredibly informative, the best part was that Meowmy and Daddy were there the entire time to talk gently with Beany and to love on her so that she knew was safe.

The Diagnosis

During the echocardiogram, the doctor showed us the problem areas.  Beany has moderate heart muscle thickening on the left side (ventricular hypertrophy) along with moderate enlargement of the left atrium (atrial dilation).  Her diagnosis, Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM), in lay terms, heart disease.  After the test, the Doctor gave us tons of information about the disease and recommendations for the next steps.  We would begin treatment with an antiplatelet medication to reduce her chance of blood clots and we would need to follow up in 4-6 months to repeat the tests to check the status of the disease.

Meowmy’s Thoughts

I wasn’t completely shocked with the diagnosis since Beany’s blood work level was so off the charts, but I was of course holding out hope that it would be something minor or treatable.  With a new, moderately progressed disease added to her list of ailments, I know I have a lot of reading and learning ahead.  As I learn more, I’ll share highlights with you on this blog.  For now, Beany is home and stable and one thing I know is that we are in this together.  We are staying positive and taking things one day at a time while enjoying every moment we get to spend together.

Have you ever seen a veterinary cardiologist?  Was your experience similar?

K Marie Alto
K Marie Alto

K. Marie is an animal lover, wife, kitty mom, dog auntie, writer, and co-founder of Toe Beans, a proud American family-owned online boutique pet supplies store focused on the improvement of the life of furry family members via pet parent education, better products, and advocacy. She has over 20 years of experience as a pet momma. She loves sharing her personal journey and experience as a pet parent via her blog and Facebook page where she currently has more than 22K followers (@furrytoebeans) and counting :-).

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