pet genetics

What's Next? Felines at risk for Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)

Learn about the genetic mutations associated with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in feline patients & how to talk to your clients about the signs.

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Feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a serious cardiac disease characterized by the thickening of the heart muscle, particularly the left ventricle. Genetic mutations play a significant role in the development of HCM in cats. Let’s explore the genetic mutations associated with feline HCM, common clinical symptoms, diagnostic tests, monitoring protocols, and lifestyle changes that can improve the lives of our feline patients.

Basepaws Veterinary by Zoetis offers comprehensive genetic testing that screens for several mutations associated with feline HCM, including MYBPC3 and MYH7. These mutations have traditionally been identified in various breeds, such as Maine Coons, Ragdolls, and British Shorthairs, but it’s important to note that any cat may be affected (Kittleson et al., 1999; Meurs et al., 2005; Meurs et al., 2007).

In addition to early genetic screening for HCM and other diseases, teaching a cat owner to recognize the symptoms of feline HCM is vital for early detection and treatment. Common clinical signs include lethargy, rapid or difficulty breathing, coughing, loss of appetite, hind limb weakness, fainting spells, and sudden paralysis (Kittleson & Kienle, 2019). Cats displaying any of these signs should be evaluated further for potential HCM.

If a kitten or cat has genetic risks associated with feline HCM, client education, thorough physical examination, lifestyle changes, and diagnostic tests are vital for good clinical outcomes. Annual to bi-annual examinations and careful auscultation may reveal heart murmurs or abnormal heart sounds. Echocardiography is considered the gold standard for assessing the structure and function of the heart, enabling the identification of the thickening of the heart muscle and other abnormalities (Meurs et al., 2007).

In addition to monitoring for symptoms in cats at-risk for HCM, supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids, taurine, and Coenzyme Q10 has shown promise in supporting heart health in cats (Freeman et al., 2011; Meurs et al., 2019). 

If a cat is diagnosed with HCM, comprehensive monitoring is crucial for managing the disease. This includes frequent check-ups, echocardiograms to monitor disease progression, blood pressure monitoring, electrocardiography (ECG) to assess the heart's electrical activity, and chest X-rays to evaluate heart size and lung changes (Kittleson & Kienle, 2019).

While medical interventions are paramount, certain lifestyle changes, diets, and supplements can help improve the quality of life and clinical outcomes for cats diagnosed with HCM. A low-sodium diet can reduce fluid retention and decrease the workload on the heart, along with omega-3 fatty acids, taurine, and CoQ10 supplements (Freeman et al., 2011; Meurs et al., 2019). 

Feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a complex disease with genetic mutations playing a significant role in its development. Basepaws Veterinary offers genetic testing to identify mutations associated with HCM, aiding in early detection and prevention. 

Veterinary professionals should remain vigilant for clinical symptoms and perform appropriate tests for accurate diagnosis of HCM. Regular monitoring throughout an at-risk or affected cat's life is crucial to manage the disease effectively. Lifestyle changes, diets, and supplements can contribute to improved outcomes. By using genetic tests and implementing appropriate monitoring and treatment strategies, veterinary professionals can make a significant difference in the lives of cats affected by HCM.


  1. Kittleson MD, Meurs KM, Munro MJ, Kittleson JA, Liu SK, Pion PD. Familial hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in Maine coon cats: an animal model of human disease. Circulation. 1999;99(25):3172-3180.
  2. Meurs KM, Norgard MM, Ederer MM, et al. A substitution mutation in the myosin binding protein C gene in ragdoll hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Genomics. 2007;90(2):261-264.
  3. Meurs KM, Sanchez X, David RM, et al. A cardiac myosin binding protein C mutation in the Maine Coon cat with familial hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Hum Mol Genet. 2005;14(23):3587-3593.
  4. Kittleson MD, Kienle RD. Feline Cardiology. 2nd ed. Wiley-Blackwell; 2019.
  5. Freeman LM, Rush JE, Kehayias JJ, et al. Nutritional alterations and the effect of fish oil supplementation in dogs with heart failure. J Vet Intern Med. 2011;25(3):513-519.
  6. Meurs KM, Lahmers S, Keene BW, et al. A splice variant in the myosin binding protein C gene is associated with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in Maine Coon cats. J Vet Intern Med. 2019;33(1):118-129.


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