Whether you are breeding cats intentionally or find yourself unexpectedly responsible for overseeing the health and welfare of your own pet's litter of kittens, it's important to be aware of the congenital heart condition known as pulmonic stenosis. This condition can be observed in kittens from the moment they are born, but in some cases, it can also take as long as a few weeks for symptoms to become noticeable. It's not fully understood why some kittens are born with this condition, but as it's congenital it's not advisable to breed any cat that's known to suffer with it.
Pulmonic stenosis occurs when the pulmonary valve is too narrow, which impairs the flow of blood through the heart. This can lead to an affected kitten developing congestive heart failure, which can significantly shorten their lifespan without treatment. Here's an overview of the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment approach for pulmonic stenosis in kittens.
Symptoms of pulmonic stenosis tend to be more severe as the narrowing of the pulmonary valve increases. Kittens with this condition typically have laboured breathing and abdominal distension. They may not have a great appetite and struggle to gain weight, and you may also notice they aren't able to move around as easily as other kittens in the litter due to the strain on their heart. Additionally, if the kitten develops congestive heart failure, they may collapse suddenly.
Diagnosis And Treatment Approach
Your vet will diagnose pulmonic stenosis by carrying out a physical exam and taking blood and urine samples to check the kitten's liver function, kidney function, blood cell count and inflammation markers. This will help them rule out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms. Your kitten will also undergo diagnostic imaging, such as a thoracic X-ray, which can show abnormalities in the structure of the heart, or an echocardiogram, which will help determine if the valves of the heart are damaged or obstructed.
Pulmonic stenosis typically requires surgical intervention and a period of inpatient care to allow the kitten to rest and heal. The exact surgical procedure your kitten will undergo is dependent on their specific circumstances, but balloon catheter dilation is commonly carried out. This involves the insertion of a catheter into the obstructed valve. The catheter has a tiny balloon on the end of it and this is blown up gently to dilate the valve and allow sufficient blood flow through the heart. An alternative to dilation is the insertion of a stent to keep the valve open, and this involves having an incision made at the site of the obstruction and draining away any excess blood before situating the stent.
If your kitten has any of the symptoms associated with pulmonic stenosis, have them examined by your vet immediately, as this condition can develop quickly and it's easier to treat when diagnosed early.
Contact a local vet surgery for more information.