The popular blog Fidose of Reality asked a poignant question in a story called Dog Survives Rare Heart Surgery. The story is about pet owner who spent nearly $32,000 to fly a specialized veterinary surgeon to the U.S. to perform a rare and risky surgery on his little dog, Esme. The surgery had never been done by American veterinarians.
Fidose of Reality asked readers, “What would you do? Would you risk it to help your dog you love so very much?
The question made me think of a decision I am struggling with every day about cat heart disease. So I’m posing this question to you, “Would you have your cat tested to see if he has a heart disease that has no cure?”
I’ve written before about my three wonderful and challenging semi-feral cats that my husband and I trapped when they were tiny kittens living on their own. My plan was to socialize them a bit and turn them over to my rescue group, Heaven Can Wait Animal Society so they could be adopted. Sport, Spike and Tiger had other plans.
To make a long story short, it took much longer than I expected to get them to stop hissing, growling, spitting and biting. When they finally learned to trust me, I had fallen in love with them and there was no way I could send them to be adopted. That was 7 years ago.
Last month, seemingly out of nowhere, Sport threw up a pink frothy substance. I took him to the veterinarian where in the course of an hour he developed a blood clot. My husband and I raced him to the critical care hospital where we learned he had Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM). Within 48 hours, Sport passed away in my arms.
HCM is the most common cat heart disease and there is a family tendency for the disease in Maine Coons. My boys are part Maine Coon. I was told there is a 50% chance Spike and Tiger have the disease too.
HCM thickens the walls of the lower part of the heart causing scar tissue to build. Some cats have a spontaneous death while others like Spike throw off blood clots. There is no cure for HCM and most of the medications available are for people rather than cats. The drugs help minimally by thinning the blood or removing fluid from the heart, but ultimately they do not stop the disease process.
Most cats with HCM learn to restrict their own activity as their disease gets worse so they don’t leave many clues for their owners to see. If I had a stethoscope at home I probably would have heard a murmur or irregular heartbeat, but that’s about it. Diagnosis is confirmed with an electrocardiogram and that is where my dilemma lies.
Should I have Spike and Tiger tested for a cat heart disease that has no cure?
One month later, we are still on the fence about this decision. I find I’m watching my cats for any subtle clue they may be giving. Looking back I realized Sport had stopped grooming himself and he walked away from his food bowl if one of his brothers challenged him. I wonder what I would have done if I knew in advance that Sport was sick?
So readers, I’m asking for your advice. What would you do? Would you have your pet tested for a disease that has no cure?
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