Four Canines Crowned Heroes

T his past May marked the 50th anniversary of the Purina Animal Hall of Fame — four new heroic hounds who exemplified extraordinary qualities were inducted during a ceremony in Toronto. Each of these remarkable dogs has an astonishing story from the day they saved a life.

“Every year we receive countless nominations from Canadians coast-to-coast, sharing the extraordinary stories of animals who have proven to be devoted companions, and who have demonstrated unquestionable intelligence and perseverance to save a life,” commented Melissa Eckersley, Purina Animal Hall of Fame Ambassador. “Although each and every nomination we receive is truly heartwarming, the four dogs we are inducting for our 50th year really did go above and beyond.”

The Purina Animal Hall of Fame has celebrated outstanding acts of animal heroism since 1968. To date, 179 remarkable animals have been inducted into the program, including 151 dogs, 27 cats and even a horse. The four dogs joining the ranks in 2018 were rewarded due to their incredible acts of perseverance, intuition and love, which ultimately saved lives. Here are the 2018 Purina Animal Hall of Fame Inductees:



(Two-year-old Akbash/Yellow Labrador/ Border Collie cross and seven-year-old Yellow Labrador/Border Collie cross from the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia)

It was a chilly afternoon in early April 2017 when Matthew Smith hit the road with his dogs, Ruth and Lady, to run a few errands in Kelowna, a town located 45 kilometres from his home. At around 8 p.m., Matthew decided to drive back home. He was three kilometres from his house when he lost control of his vehicle while navigating a very steep road and crashed — falling down an embankment. Matthew miraculously survived this fall, but was severely injured. Although he managed to get himself, Ruth and Lady out of the truck, the severity of Matthew’s traumatic injuries, which included head trauma, a lacerated liver and multiple broken ribs, rendered him incapable of getting help, and he collapsed. The temperature soon dropped to zero degrees, and recognizing the seriousness of Matthew’s situation, Ruth and Lady lay on either side of him, hoping to keep him warm and comforted in the freezing conditions. Hours later, a homeowner living nearby returned from work to find Ruth and Lady barking on his driveway, signalling him to follow them. The gentleman followed the dogs and discovered Matthew in critical condition, lying bleeding on the ground. He immediately called 911 and even after the emergency services arrived, Ruth and Lady refused to leave Matthew’s side, showcasing their loyalty and devotion to protect him. Matthew is currently in the process of recovering from the terrible accident and thanks Ruth and Lady for saving his life. Without their quick-thinking, loyalty and exceptional communication skills, Matthew knows he would not have lived on to share his story.



(12-year-old Whippet from St-Laurent, Quebec)

It was 2 a.m. one dark September morning, when Adele Schwartz awoke to use the bathroom. She unfortunately took a wrong turn and tumbled down the basement stairs, hitting her head and instantly falling unconscious. Being a deep sleeper, Adele’s husband Bill didn’t hear a thing until Sabrina woke him by causing a commotion — nudging him repeatedly and pulling the comforter off their bed. Typically, a calm and quiet dog, Bill was alarmed by Sabrina’s uncharacteristic behaviour and, after realizing Adele was no longer lying beside him, got out of bed to investigate what had happened. Sabrina led Bill to find Adele’s motionless body at the bottom of the stairs. Incredibly frightened and worried, Bill immediately called an ambulance. Due to the fall, Adele had a fractured vertebra in her neck, a compression fracture in her back and her head had split open, causing a severe concussion that left her unconscious for three days. Adele spent 10 more days in the hospital and several more months recovering. Today, Adele says she owes her life to Sabrina. Had Sabrina not acted so quickly, Adele likely wouldn’t have survived the fall or would have suffered permanent brain damage.




(eight-year-old German Shepherd from Baddeck, Nova Scotia)


On March 3, 2017, Lloyd Stone, a very active 90-year-old, was out crosscountry skiing, a regular leisure activity he enjoyed. Suddenly, he hit some ice and fell on his side — breaking his hip and leaving him in excruciating pain. The intensity of the pain made it impossible for Lloyd to reach the nearby highway and, starting to lose hope, he dipped in and out of consciousness. Three hours later, at 8 p.m., it was getting dark when Lloyd’s neighbour Calvin Kuchta was driving by and recognized his car on the side of the road. He had seen it earlier while going to the gym, and thinking it was a little out of character for Lloyd to be out for so long and so late, Calvin headed home to collect his dog Arik to help him investigate. Arik was an accomplished former police dog, so Calvin knew he needed Arik in order to be able to successfully find Lloyd. Unable to use Arik’s leash, Calvin creatively fastened a skipping rope around Arik’s neck to help him track Lloyd’s scent in the woods and returned to the area. As the duo searched deeper into the bush, they finally heard a man’s voice calling for help, triggering Arik into action. Arik broke his skipping-rope-fashioned leash and bounded into the woods where he found Lloyd lying on the snow-covered ground. Calvin called 911 immediately and Lloyd was taken to a nearby hospital. Had Arik not been there to help locate him so quickly, Lloyd would have likely suffered from severe hypothermia, and potentially frozen to death.


Two dogs also received honourable mentions for making a difference in people’s lives. Koby, a fiveyear-old German Shepherd, Border Collie and Husky mix from Toronto, was the first self-trained service dog in history to be allowed into a Canadian school. Smiley, a beloved blind therapy dog, garnered 200,000 Instagram followers and became famous for his infectious smile and ability to help brighten the lives of others, comforting countless hospital patients, children with autism and those living in nursing homes alike.

For more information about the Purina Animal Hall of Fame, please visit To watch videos of this year’s inductee stories, visit

Unleash Their Inner Lion: Exercising Your Kitten

Although your new kitten may spend much of their day catnapping, they will likely be up for a few play sessions a day, too. Through regular play cats receive much of the exercise they need, which is not only great for your new kitten’s physical well being but for their mental health, as well.

Cats are natural hunters and their play style mimics these traits by stalking, chasing and catching objects. Although play sessions may only last 10 to 15 minutes at a time, they can happen a few times a day. It is a great idea to encourage these sessions early in the day and again before bed to get your cat into a routine of being active when you are also awake

In the beginning, you may need to encourage play with your new kitten, but as time goes on your kitten will catch on and often be the one to initiate play sessions with you or your family.

with you or your family. Need some ideas on how to keep your cat playful and exercised?


Cats love to climb. Providing your cat multiple levels to investigate will not only allow them the opportunity to get some exercise but also to see their surroundings from a different angle. To do this you may want to consider purchasing a cat tree, which consists of multi-level platforms for your cat to climb and explore. These are often covered in carpet-type materials which also encourage your cat’s natural need to stretch and scratch their claws.



Sometimes boredom can set in when it comes to play if the same toys are always available. Make play sessions more interesting by rotating available toys. This is will keep things fresh and exciting.



It’s no surprise that cat toys are often fashioned to represent small creatures like mice and birds, which also happen to be the main animals cats hunt. These will be some of your cat’s favourite toys. Small toy mice and feathered toys that your cat can bat around and chase will provide endless opportunity for play.

If you want to interact with your kitten during play, consider feather teaser toys that dangle feathers from a long string on a handle that you can flick, move and drag around the house mimicking a bird.

Laser light toys are also great to use, as long as you keep them out of your kittens eyes and at ground level, to stimulate their hunt and catch instincts. It is amazing that a small light that you control around the room can catch their inquisitive nature by imitating the movements of a bug.



Cats love to watch birds and are inquisitive about the outdoors in general. It is not uncommon to find them sitting at the window or looking out the screen of a door. This mental stimulation is beneficial for them. You may want to consider installing a cat window perch so they can have abundant nature views.

If you have the space, many cat owners are now installing “cattios” to allow a safe, enclosed space outdoors for their cats to investigate their natural surroundings while being protected from any risks. Cattios consist of an enclosure with multiple levels to explore that is placed outside, beside your home, near a window or door that your cat can access from the inside of your house. Preassembled cattios can be purchased for installation, or they can be easy to create on your own.



Treat- or food-dispensing toys are great for keeping your pet’s mind active. These puzzle-type toys provide mental stimulation as your cat tries to figure out how to get a reward out of them.

interactive with your kitten, and it also fosters the bond between you while reinforcing their physical and mental health. A cat with a well-exercised mind and body has the best chance at preventing obesity and negative behaviours, such as house soiling. To learn more about how you can include exercise and play in your kitten’s daily routine, ask your veterinary healthcare team.

Kristina Cooper is a Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT) and proud member of the Ontario Association of Veterinary Technicians (OAVT). She has previously worked in both small animal practice and a municipal animal shelter. With a special interest in the relationship between animal and human health she is currently the Provincial Manager of the OAVT Public Health Rabies Response Program and an active One Health Initiative advocate. She can be reached by email at

Thinking Inside The Box

Cats tend to have a strong instinctual drive to bury their feces, and find litter boxes an attractive place in which to do this. Most cats are trained at three to four weeks of age by their mothers to properly eliminate in a litter box. Soon, they follow her lead and begin to eliminate in the litter box on their own.

Some pet owners find litter with additives that attract the cat helpful in piquing their interest in using the box

This is useful for new kittens and cats that have mainly been used to eliminating outdoors. Outdoor cats can also be gradually trained to use a box in the house; start off using potting soil or sand in the box, and then slowly introduce a commercial litter product.



There are many available options for litter boxes, including the traditional rectangular THINKING INSIDE THE BOX PHOTO: DEPOSITPHOTOS.COM SIFTING THROUGH THE FACTS ON KITTY LITTER By Kristina Cooper, RVT >> CAT CARE GUIDE 2018 PETS 19 GUIDE TO CAT CARE box, the covered box and self-cleaning variations. Most boxes are constructed of plastics that can be easily cleaned with soap and warm water, but may over time absorb odours and need to be replaced.

The least expensive and most accepted style tends to be the traditional plastic, rectangular box. Select one with enough room for your cat to move around without touching the sides too easily. Because these boxes are not covered, they are less confining and provide more air circulation. Their downside is that litter may be pushed out of the box if your cat is an aggressive digger. If the box isn’t large enough for your cat, or your cat has bad aim, they may also inadvertently eliminate outside the side of the box.

The covered boxes are moderately priced, and are especially fancied by those who have inquisitive dogs or whose cats may have bad aim. These boxes greatly reduce the amount of litter that is spilled outside of the box during digging. One downfall of this design is less air circulation, potentially resulting in odour buildup. They can also be too confining for larger cats.

The automatic self-cleaning boxes are the priciest option. These products automatically rake or sift the litter and remove clumps of urine and feces, depositing them into a reservoir that the owner can later empty. Although these boxes can cut down on cleaning time for busy cat guardians, the rakes can sometimes become stuck. Some versions tend to be a little noisy, as well.



Cats are very selective creatures when it comes to eliminating, and do not enjoy an audience. The location of your litter box should be inviting, where there is both privacy and a low traffic flow. Keep in mind the location should be easily accessible to your cat, and the area should generally be quiet. Inadvertent noises (such as a furnace motor or clothes dryer buzzer) may startle your cat while in its box, which can result in an aversion to its use.





Clumping litter products are most commonly used. These litters clump around feces and urine, sealing it off from the fresh litter and allowing for easy scooping and removal. Although clay clumping litter appears to provide the strongest clumping action and is most widely used, some people prefer to use the newer pine-, corn- or wheat-based products. These litters tend to be lighter, and because they can be flushed or composted are more environmentally friendly. The downside of corn and wheat litters is that they may strike your cat’s fancy as a food source. And, although humans tend to associate the smell of pine with cleanliness, pine litters may be too strongly scented for cats and can lead to litter box aversion. There is a certain amount of dust to be expected with any clumping product, but some brands are less dusty than others.

Also available in pets stores are crystalline products containing indicators that alert you when its time to change the litter. These crystals, often made of silica, absorb urine and eliminate odours. They also have low dust levels. Feces must be scooped daily when using these products, and the crystals must be mixed to prevent any pooling of urine at the bottom of the box. Note that these litters can often be expensive, and that some cats find the sensation of standing in them unpleasant.

There are also litters that are made of recycled newspaper formed into pellets. These products are often used after surgery and declawing procedures to avoid contamination and infection. These litters do not clump, nor do they provide much odour control — meaning the litter box must be cleaned more frequently.


Most cats are very particular about the cleanliness of their litter boxes. Some cats even prefer to urinate in one box and defecate in another, and so you may be well off to provide two boxes. In multi-cat households, some cats will not eliminate in a box used by another cat. Multi-cat households should have at least one box per cat, plus one extra, to meet their needs. It is paramount that your cat’s box be kept as clean as possible — remember that cats have a much stronger sense of smell than we do!

When using clumping litter, the box should be scooped daily and new litter added to top it up. Depending on the use of the box, it should be completely emptied, washed and refilled with fresh litter every few weeks. In the case of traditional claytype litters that don’t clump, it is best to completely empty, wash and refill with fresh litter on a daily basis. Silica crystal litters that don’t have a change indicator should be disposed of after one month. The box should then be thoroughly cleaned and refilled with fresh litter.

Although scented litters and deodorizers are appealing to people, use them with caution. They can be extremely strong and offensive to a cat, causing them to eliminate elsewhere. Unscented litters will retain their freshness as long as they are frequently cleaned.


Kristina Cooper is a Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT) and proud member of the Ontario Association of Veterinary Technicians (OAVT). She has previously worked in both small animal practice and a municipal animal shelter. With a special interest in the relationship between animal and human health she is currently the Provincial Manager of the OAVT Public Health Rabies Response Program and an active One Health Initiative advocate. She can be reached by email at

Fractured Teeth Always Merit A Trip To The Veterinarian

Teeth are amazingly strong! Nevertheless, when you consider that teeth are essential tools for your cat or dog, used not only for eating but for playing and picking things up, it’s not surprising that veterinarians routinely see broken teeth in their patients.

“All types of dogs and cats can fracture teeth. Cats are more likely to have injured teeth as a result of trauma, while dogs often cause damage chewing during play,” explains Dr. Katherine Kling, a veterinarian at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana who is pursuing board certification in dentistry. (When teeth are damaged due to trauma, such as bite wounds or being hit by a car, the teeth are generally treated after more serious problems, like jaw fractures, have been addressed.)



According to Dr. Kling, commonly fractured teeth include the fang-like canine teeth in dogs and cats (yes, cats have canine teeth!) and the carnassial teeth in dogs. The carnassial teeth are the largest teeth in your pet’s mouth, paired top and bottom toward the back of the mouth; these teeth evolved in many carnivore species to shear the flesh off prey.

Dr. Kling categorizes broken teeth as complicated and uncomplicated fractures. Either way, the problem should be promptly evaluated by a veterinarian to save the tooth, in some cases, and to ensure that the pet is not in pain, in all cases.

“A complicated fracture occurs when the crown of the tooth is fractured and the pulp is exposed,” she says. “If there is not intervention, the tooth will die.”

Uncomplicated fractures do not involve the pulp (the part of the tooth that supplies nutrients to the tooth) and may heal. However, it is important to understand that fractured teeth can be quite painful and always merit a prompt visit to the veterinarian.



Dr. Kling explains “If you notice a complicated fracture right away, there is a chance that the tooth can be saved through vital pulp therapy.”



Vital pulp therapy is generally performed by a veterinary dentist, like Dr. Kling. The procedure involves removing about four millimetres of the exposed pulp — the live tissue inside the tooth — and medicating the remaining pulp to help support new dentin as it forms. Dentin is a bonelike substance that lies below the tooth enamel; dentin is produced throughout the life of the tooth. To successfully restore viability of a tooth, vital pulp therapy must be performed immediately following the damage.



If time has elapsed since the tooth was damaged, two options remain for a tooth with a complicated fracture: a root canal or extraction of the tooth. Your veterinarian can help you decide between these two therapies.

During a root canal, all of the pulp is removed from the tooth and replaced with a substance that allows the tooth to function comfortably without the risk of infection or pain. If surgical extraction of the tooth is chosen, animals typically live happily with fewer teeth.

“A painful tooth is providing no benefit to a pet and it is likely to cause problems,” says Dr. Kling. “Most animals eat much more comfortably once the painful tooth is removed.”

Uncomplicated fractures usually do not need an aggressive intervention, but should still be seen by a veterinarian. While there is a lower risk of the tooth dying, the tooth may be sensitive. Additionally, the tooth may need some restoration or smoothing of jagged edges to ensure that it does not cause problems for the pet.



Even if your pet is young enough that the fractured tooth will eventually fall out and be replaced by the adult tooth, a veterinarian needs to evaluate the problem

“Since permanent teeth are very close to their deciduous counterparts, pulp exposure on a baby tooth can result in damage to the bud of the permanent tooth below,” warns Dr. Kling.

While tooth fractures cannot always be avoided, choosing appropriate toys can help prevent fractured teeth in dogs that like to chew. Soft rubber or stuffed toys are much safer than hard plastic toys, antlers or bones.

“Dental issues are sometimes overlooked because they are not life limiting, but they are most definitely quality-of-life limiting, so it is important to include dentistry in your pet’s care,” says Dr. Kling. “We are fortunate to have the knowledge and resources to help provide our pets with comfortable and healthy mouths.”

“Dental issues are sometimes overlooked because they are not life limiting, but they are most definitely quality-of-life limiting, so it is important to include dentistry in your pet’s care,” says Dr. Kling. “We are fortunate to have the knowledge and resources to help provide our pets with comfortable and healthy mouths.”


From the University of Illinois UrbanaChampaign College of Veterinary Medicine:

Cats Are Carnivores, So They Should Eat Like One

Diet can have a big impact on health. Just like humans, cats have special dietary needs to help them stay healthy.

However, feline diets are a lot different than human diets. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they require meat in their diet and need little carbohydrates.

In the wild, cats usually prey on small animals, such as mice and birds. But as a pet, a cat might only be preying on a can of cat food. Because pet cats often don’t get the opportunity to hunt for their own food, it’s important for cat owners to mimic the high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet their cat would naturally eat in the wild.

Dr. Deb Zoran, a professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, said the best way to mimic a cat’s natural diet is to feed them canned food that has a protein content of 40% or higher and a carbohydrate content of 10% or lower.

Eating canned food will also help your kitty meet their daily water needs.

“Cats are used to getting a large percentage of their daily water needs from their diet,” Zoran said, adding that if a cat is primarily eating dry food, it may have a harder time staying hydrated. “All dry foods are low moisture, so cats that eat only dry foods consume less water and are more prone to dehydration.”

Dry food diets can also present other health challenges because they are typically high in fat, carbohydrates and calories. In fact, a high-carb diet can lead to obesity and diabetes, Zoran said.

In addition, a dry food diet may also upset your cat’s stomach, since cats are not “built” for carbohydrate digestion and absorption.

So what should you feed your cat? Zoran said it is best to choose a canned-food diet that says on the label “complete and balanced.” If you want to feed a homemade diet or other type of whole-food diet, Zoran said that’s OK, too. Just make sure to consult a nutritional expert to ensure the diet meets all of your cat’s needs.

Additionally, it’s OK if you want to give your cat a treat every now and then. Zoran recommended plain, cooked meats that are not seasoned and do not contain onions and garlic, which can be toxic

Other foods that can be poisonous for pets include fruits such as grapes and raisins. In fact, Zoran said to avoid giving your cat fruits and vegetables unless your vet has given you permission.

There are also many plants that are toxic to cats, such as Easter lilies.

“They are extremely deadly to cats,” Zoran said. “Chewing on a single leaf can cause kidney failure.  It is best to know what plants you have before you put them in the house.”

As a cat owner, it is your responsibility to keep your pet safe from potentially harmful foods and to take your cat’s dietary needs seriously. As the old saying goes, you are what you eat!


Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences:

Heart Disease In Cats

Heart disease is a common cause of illness in domestic cats. It is frequently called a “silent killer.” This is especially true in feline medicine due to the lack of early signs of disease and the tendency for cats to hide illness. While other species may exhibit early signs, such as coughing or exercise intolerance, cats are often subclinical (without signs) until the disease has become advanced.

Heart disease refers to any dysfunction of the heart and is different from heart failure. Many types of heart disease exist in cats, but the most common are called “cardiomyopathies” (diseases of the heart muscle). Other types of heart disease may include valve disease (such as mitral insuf- ficiency), birth defects (such as holes or strictures) or other conditions.

The most common heart disease in cats is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). This disease is characterized by a gradual thickening and weakening of the heart muscle. As the muscle thickens, there is less room for blood to fill the heart and the muscle is less able to pump blood effectively as it weakens. There are two primary forms of HCM — a genetically linked form that is often early onset and occurs in some breeds (Maine Coons, Ragdolls, Rexes, Sphynxes and others) and a sporadic form that may occur in any cat at any age.

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) used to be a common disease in cats and is characterized by a thin and “flabby” heart muscle. DCM was almost exclusively caused by a deficiency of a nutrient called taurine in the diet. In recent decades all commercial foods have been supplemented with taurine, rendering the disease less common. DCM may still occur for other reasons, or in cats fed homemade or poorly formulated diets defi- cient in taurine. It is important to note that taurine supplementation is likely not helpful in cats with other forms of heart disease.

Other cardiomyopathies exist, such as restrictive or unclassified cardiomyopathy; however, they are less common.



Early signs of heart disease in cats are easy to miss as they are either non-existent, or so subtle and non-specific that they are rarely noticed by owners. To further complicate matters, cats seem to know their own capabilities and limitations and tend to restrict their level of activity, which can further mask clinical signs.

Heart murmurs may be present in cats with heart disease. A murmur is an extra “whooshing” noise between normal heart sounds due to turbulent or abnormal blood flow. Some kittens may have a transient “physiologic” murmur that is of no signifi- cance that disappears as they mature. Approximately half of adult cats with heart murmurs will develop heart disease, while the other half will be healthy. The murmur’s loudness is not always associated with disease severity. While cats with heart murmurs should be monitored due to higher risk of disease, they will not all experience heart failure. Only about half of cats with heart failure will have a murmur.

Cats may also have an arrhythmia (irregular heart rhythm that may be fast or slow) or a gallop (an extra heart sound). Unlike a murmur, these are almost always signifi- cant in cats and should be investigated.

Other signs of heart disease are less specific and may include weight loss, loss of appetite, lethargy or collapse. Swollen abdomen and coughing are very uncommon in cats, unlike humans and dogs.

Cats with heart failure may develop slow and progressive signs, or may present acutely ill. Two main acute syndromes occur in cats — congestive heart failure (CHF) or feline aortic thromboembolism (FATE).

Cats with CHF develop an increased respiratory rate (generally more than 60 breaths per minute). They often breathe with an open mouth, may struggle for breath and have blue-tinged gums. Fluid may be present within the lungs (pulmonary edema) or around them (pleural effusion). Fluid may also build up in the abdomen or within the heart sac, though these signs are seen less commonly.

Cats with FATE generally lose the function of one or more limbs. Initially, the embolism is very painful, with loss of pain sensation occurring over the next few hours. The affected limbs are cold to the touch and without pulses in the arteries to the affected leg(s), and the limbs are weak or paralyzed. This is a very serious condition and is an immediate medical emergency for which prompt therapy is essential. While FATE classically affects the limbs, cats may also have clots to their brain (stroke), lungs (pulmonary thromboembolism), heart (myocardial infarction), gut (mesenteric clot) or in other locations.



All cats are at risk of developing heart disease; however, some breeds are at higher risk. These include the Ragdoll (and related breeds), Maine Coon, Sphynx and Rex breeds. Cats eating poor-quality, taurine12 PETS CAT CARE GUIDE 2018 WWW.PETSMAGAZINE.CA HEART DISEASE IN CATS BY KATHLEEN CAVANAGH, DVM >> GUIDE TO CAT CARE PHOTO: DEPOSITPHOTOS.COM deficient diets are also at higher risk for DCM. Congenital heart issues are uncommon in cats, but may include valve stenosis or insufficiency, patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), tetralogy of Fallot and others.

For most cats, not much can be done to decrease the risk of heart disease, though careful monitoring is recommended to allow prompt intervention.

While obesity is associated with many illnesses in cats, there is no evidence it predisposes to heart disease (cats do not get coronary artery disease like humans). Some infections (such as dental infections) may slightly increase the risk of endocarditis (infection of the heart), though this is not common.



Careful history taking and physical exams form the basis of diagnosis of heart disease. The examination will include listening carefully to the heart and lungs and checking for normal pulses.

The veterinarian will endeavour to rule out other diseases that may resemble heart failure, including pneumonia, asthma, cancer, trauma or other concerns. Cats having signs of blood clots may be confused with cats having other conditions, such as brain disease, muscle or skeletal disease or other conditions based on the location of the clot.

Chest X-rays are frequently recommended as a first diagnostic step if the cat is stable. The X-rays may show heart disease definitively, but more often are used as one part of a multi-step diagnostic process. Blood tests may be needed to rule out other conditions. Some specific tests (such as ntpro-BNP) may be useful in determining if heart disease is present. Electrocardiography (ECG) measures electrical signals through the heart and is useful for further evaluating arrhythmias.

The best way to determine the type and extent of heart disease is with echocardiography (ultrasound of the heart). This test is minimally invasive and usually does not require sedation. It allows images and videos of the heart to be collected and analyzed. This may be done by a cardiologist, veterinarian or skilled ultrasound technician and may be analyzed in house or sent away. While it may be more expensive than other tests it usually gives the most information.



Heart disease in cats is rarely curable, with very few exceptions. Few surgical management options exist and the focus is medical therapy. There is little proof that therapy before the onset of CHF is effective at slowing the progression of disease in most conditions, though some potential therapies exist. Blood thinners may be used to prevent clots in cats with known heart disease, antiarrhythmic may be used if an arrhythmia is present, but other drugs are likely of limited effectiveness.

As discussed, taurine supplementation may be used in cats with taurine-deficient DCM, but this is very uncommon in Canada. It is not effective for other forms of heart disease.

In an emergency situation, cats with CHF may require oxygen therapy, diuretics (medications that increase the amount of water and electrolytes expelled in urine), chest taps (removal of fluid from around the lungs) and more aggressive care in some cases. Cats with blood clots will require pain control medication, anticoagulants and aggressive hospital care.

After initial stabilization, cats with CHF will almost always be treated with furosemide (a diuretic) to keep fluid off the lungs. They may also be treated with beta blockers (such as atenolol) to slow the heart rate and reduce certain symptoms, ACEinhibitors to help decrease fluid buildup, blood thinners to prevent clots or one of several other medications based on veterinary recommendations.

The prognosis for most cats with CHF is very guarded. Most cats can be stabilized through an initial crisis, but some do not survive initial hospitalization. After leaving hospital, most cats survive for three to six months with therapy. Some rare cases have been known to go into remission, usually young cats that experience CHF after a stressful event, but this is not common.

The prognosis for FATE is much more guarded, especially if severe signs are present. Many cats with saddle thrombosis (clot stuck at the junction of hind limb arteries) do not survive hospitalization, though some may recover fully. Treatment with a blood thinner, such as clopidogrel (Plavix®), is generally lifelong.

Consult your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your cat has heart disease. Prompt workup and therapy may improve prognosis.

Talk to your veterinary healthcare team for more information about heart problems in cats, especially if you own a breed known to be prone to cardiomyopathy.


Kathleen Cavanagh, BSc DVM MET, Consulting Online Editor, Canadian Veterinary Medical Association; Matthew Kornya, BSc, DVM, Resident ABVP, Consulting Editor