DCM Heart Disease in Cats

Cats are obligate carnivores, they must have meat and lots of it.  If it bothers you that your cat would have to be a killer in order to survive in the wild, then this may not be perfect pet for you.  Thankfully, most cat owners seem to have come to grips with this. The rate of DCM among cats has not increased, and the very carnivorousness of cats may be to thank for this (note to people who think they can keep cats healthy on soy products…buy pet insurance because you’re going to need it). High quality, and where possible, cruelty free and environmentally friendly meat, will keep your cat’s heart healthy. The recommended brands of cat food that contain no pesticides or heavy metals (especially for the seafood selections).

The amount of taurine in cat food can vary depending upon the cuts of meat, animal husbandry practices and processing.  Organ meats contain more taurine than muscle meats. However, factory farm raised animals (CAFO) will provide less taurine in their organs than free range animals.  Boiling during the pet food formulation process can reduce the amount even further.  Pouched cat foods are particularly deficient in taurine and other essential nutrients, so these should not be fed day after day.  

Unlike dogs, where the role of taurine in the sky rocketing rates of DCM is a bit murky, the role of this nutrient in cats is very clear.  This may be because cats are obligate carnivores, and their all meat diet was naturally rich in taurine anyway, at least until they came to stay with humans.  So unless you rotate your cat’s diet with high-quality dry food, top quality canned food and the occasional sardine or ground beef heart, you may want to consider a taurine supplement such as those found at the bottom of this post.  Do this in advance of the onset of symptoms such as rapid heart rate, rapid breathing and general weakness. If these signs of distress are observed, a visit to the vet immediately is the prudent course of action.

If the diagnosis is DCM, your work may be cut out for you. Most professionals have relayed poor success in curing cardiomyopathy in cats and no drugs have been shown to slow the progression. Some veterinarians report the occasional success with placing the cat on high taurine supplementation, which sometimes appears to alleviate the symptoms of the disease and in some rare cases appeared to reverse it after one year of supplementation.  For a few ailing kitties diagnosed early with DCM,  beta blockers may be prescribed. A beta blocker should not be prescribed prior to an echocardiogram.

In the world of livestock producers, a common wisdom is that‘the shepard’s eye is the best medicine’. So it is with DCM. To catch it in the early stage, you will need to have paid enough attention to your cat’s normal behavior to be able to recognize abnormal. Therefore, become familiar with your cat’s normal resting breathing rate and effort. With watch in hand, record the number of times his/her sides rise and fall in one minute. One rise and fall cycle is equal to one breath. Count the number of breaths he/she takes in 6 seconds, then multiply this number by10 to get total breaths per minute. A normal cat at rest should have a respiratory rate of less than 40.  If this rate is consistently elevated, it is time to see the vet for tests.  To prevent an unnecessary visit to the vet, consider feeding Boots from the recommended foods below or supplementing the usual meal with the taurine powder listed below.

To summarize, when a high quality canned cat food is available, choose that, rotate flavors frequently and supplement with raw foods or commercial taurine supplements occasionally to maintain heart health in your beloved feline companion. Research the brands, spend the money for the best and acquire peace of mind.  In an industry plagued by pet food recalls about every two weeks, taking the time to educate yourself now may save your pet’s life later. Note to animal lovers, by ordering your products here, you help to support an animal rescue non-profit organization. One hundred percent of the commision earned from this sale is credited to that non-profit.

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