Feline heart disease is far more common than most cat guardians realize. One in six cats can be born with or develop heart disease later in life, and it can strike any breed of cat at any age. What makes feline heart disease very challenging is the fact that cats rarely show the warning signs that are typical for heart disease, such as shortness of breath, exercise intolerance, coughing or weakness until the disease is quite advanced.
How is heart disease detected?
This is yet another reason why regular, at least annual, veterinary check ups are so important. When vets listen to your cat’s heart, what they’re listening for is a murmur. Not every murmur is an indicator of heart disease, but it definitely requires further diagnostics, such as an ECG, or electrocardiogram, chest x-rays, and a cardiac ultrasound. These tests will show changes to the size and shape of the heart, whether there is fluid present in the chest, and abnormalities of the heart valves. A cardiac ultrasound can actually determine the degree of heart disease, not just the presence of it.
proBNT test helps detect heart disease earlier
Now there’s another tool that helps veterinarians diagnose heart disease, and even identify cats who might be prone to heart disease. The proBNT blood test has been used in human medicine for years. BNP stands for B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) or N-terminal pro b-type natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP) BNP and NT-proBNP are substances that are produced in the heart and released when the heart is stretched and working hard to pump blood.
The proBNT test is a simple blood test that only requires a small sample of blood. It can be performed in the clinic or sent out to a reference lab.H
When should the proBNT test be performed?
To establish a baseline in healthy cats. Even if your cat doesn’t have a heart murmur, the test can serve as a baseline to compare future tests as your cat gets older.
To test cats who are considered at risk for heart disease based on breed or history.
To monitor treatment for cats who already have heart disease. NT-proBNT is the most stable cardiac marker, and follow up tests can assists vets in determining and adjusting treatment plans.
As a pre-surgical test. 10-15% of cats develop heart disease without presenting with a heart murmur or arrythmia. Running a proBNT test as part of a pre-anesthetic panel provides extra peace of mind.