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C2003-40

Dear Christopher Cat

We just bought a Persian kitten named Elliott. He is six months old and seems normal, but the veterinarian says he has a heart murmur. Will he grow out of this?

Christopher Responds

Heart murmurs in kittens are always cause for concern, especially if the kitten has been eating a good kitten food.

If cats are given food for humans or dogs, they may not get enough taurine, an amino acid essential to normal heart function. Feeding adequate taurine will restore normal heart sounds if the murmur is due to taurine deficiency.

Because Elliott was undoubtedly fed kitten food, it’s more likely that he has a primary heart problem that won’t just go away as he gets older.

Problems to look for include: a) a malformation of his heart valves or the walls of his heart, b) a diaphragmatic hernia, in which some of the contents of the abdomen may be lodged within the sac around his heart, or c) cardiomyopathy, a heart (cardio) muscle (myo) disease (pathy) in which the walls of the heart are too thick or too thin.

To diagnose the problem, ask your veterinarian to recommend a veterinary cardiologist who can do a cardiac ultrasound to show the structure of the heart and its surrounding sac as well as the heart’s function.

Once the cause of the heart murmur is identified, the cardiologist can recommend treatment to maximize Elliott’s lifespan and quality of life.

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