A little bit of information:
Since you already have a diagnosis, I urge you to find an excellent holistic vet without delay and follow the advice you'll find in the article below. Hopefully with early treatment you will be able to slow down the disease.
I know of more than one person who was actually able to reverse the disease with very aggressive natural treatment, so please make natural treatment a top priority.
To find a holistic vet in your area:
Also, please get this book for additional information:
Shawn Messonnier DVM: Natural Health Bible for Dogs and Cats
Cardiomyopathy = Heartbreak?
Maybe not...a combination of natural remedies can help.
By Fran Pennock Shaw
It's scary diagnosis - cardiomyopathy. It isn't necessarily a death sentence, although it does require prompt treatment. Deciding how to best help your cat with heart muscle disease can be heart-wrenching, and sometimes you may have to consider trying multiple approaches.
The first symptom of this most-common heart condition in cats is often a heart murmur, however not all heart murmurs develop into cardiomyopathies. Most at risk are cats with a taurine deficiency or genetic predisposition, but the actual cause of most cases is unknown. If diagnosed early, it is controllable and sometimes even reversible. Left untreated, the condition usually progresses to fatal congestive heart failure.
Many owners and veterinarians believe they can extend the lives of cats with even late-stage cardiomyopathy through homeopathy, diet, Chinese and western herbs and nutritional supplements, including amino acids, antioxidants and Coenzyme Q10. Diuretics are essential for cats suffering congestion in the lungs or chest, although opinion differs over whether pharmaceuticals or nutraceuticals are better in the long-term.
"If not treated fully, the cat with cardiomyopathy is going to die," warns Shawn Messonnier, DVM, a holistic veterinarian in Plano, Texas, who uses supplements and Chinese herbs along with traditional heart medicines. "When the cat's already in heart failure, you have to stabilize the patient first. Then you can reduce drugs and replace them with natural diuretics, but it should be done very carefully. You shouldn't just go out and pick any herb and think it's going to work."
Use of Herbs
Many vets say herbal diuretics such as dandelion or sarsaparilla tea or asparagus or carrot juice are too weak to effectively reduce the fluid from congestive heart disease. Dr. Messonnier also warns that all botanicals should be used in consultation with veterinarians because "some of these herbs can be very, very potent, even dangerous" for cats - especially ill cats - who metabolize substances differently than humans.
Owners can give cats hawthorn berry and bilberry to help heart function. Jeff Levy, DVM, a homeopathic veterinarian in Williamsburg, MA., says, however, "it's essentially enhanced nutrition and not likely to have enough of an impact on this serious a pathology. Basically, without intervention, cardiomyopathy will result in death. I don't want people to think it's simple enough to do anything on their own and have a prayer of succeeding."
He says he's successful using homeopathic remedies for the cardiomyopathy and common secondary symptoms such as difficulty breathing, fluid buildup and blood clots. "To see observable improvement in heart muscle takes at least six months," he says. "You're looking at years on a single remedy or sequence of remedies. While that's getting better, though, the cat should be doing relatively okay. You should expect to see significant clinical improvement within weeks to a month or two. Obviously, it varies from case to case."
Gary Wood, DVM, of Cardiology Northwest heart specialists in Portland, Ore., similarly believes "there are a lot of cats with cardiomyopathy who live a long time. There's a tendency to over-emphasize how bad it is. The sooner it's diagnosed and treated, the better cats do." Even cats with congestive heart disease can benefit, he adds, "If we get that under control and the underlying heart disease is moderate, a fairly large number go on to live many years." (Dr. Wood gets referrals from holistic vets but he relies mostly on conventional drugs - diuretics, blood thinners, antiarrhythmics, calcium channel blockers and beta-blockers - along with "sometimes controversial drugs" such as ACE-inhibitors to combat heart enlargement.)
Even mainstream vets emphasize good nutrition and reduced stress for cardiomyopathy. Cats are often prescribed low-salt therapeutic or homemade diets and supplements of taurine, antioxidant vitamins and minerals, plus fish oils to improve appetite. Potassium is commonly given to cats on diuretics.
There are three known types of cardiomyopathy, In hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), the left ventricle muscle thickens so the heart does not relax and fill properly. The left side of the heart bulges, creating a valentine shape. HCM mostly affects male cats, 1 to 8 years old, especially domestic shorthairs and longhairs, Ragdoll, Maine Coon and Persian breeds. It's idiopathic (of unknown cause) and represents about 80 percent of the cats with heart disease, according to John Carl Goodwin, DVM, of the Veterinary Heart Institute, Gainsville, Fla., who sees about 700 animals a month with heart conditions.
The heart muscle also in thickens in restrictive cardiomyopathy (RCM), which is similar to HCM, but considered harder to treat, possibly because it is much less common. Viral infections are one suspected cause.
In dilated cardiomyopthy (DCM), heart walls thin as the heart enlarges like a balloon. Incidence has dropped 90 percent since manufacturers began adding taurine to commercial cat food. The primary cure for DCM remains taurine supplementation; however, cats without a taurine deficiency still get DCM for unknown causes.
Vets diagnose a heart murmur through a simple physical exam. A diagnosis of cardiomyopathy requires X-rays and an echocardiogram (ultrasound). A veterinary cardiologist may take additional tests.
Symptoms To Watch For
Cats typically hide their symptoms and the severity of cardiomyopathy can vary greatly anyway. Watch for panting or abnormal breathing, exercise intolerance, loss of appetite, weight loss, fainting. Most dangerous are abdominal swelling, coughing up blood, visual impairment or paralysis of the hind legs. A heart murmur (turbulent blood flow) is "always a red flag," but it could also mean feline anemia, thyroid disease or just a mechanical abnormality, Dr. Wood notes.
Blood clots are a real threat from cardiomyopathy, especially from HCM. Potentially fatal clots, which form in the heart, travel through arteries and block essential blood flow. Cats with HCM most often get clots in the hind legs (saddle thrombus), resulting in full or partial paralysis. All cardiomyopathies can lead to congestive heart disease because whenever the heart pumps improperly, fluid can accumulate in the lungs (pulmonary edema) or chest cavity (pleural effusion). Both clots and congestion require emergency treatment.
Other disorders can cause heart enlargement, "which mimics the effects and symptoms of cardiomyopathy," says Dr. Wood, including hypertension, hyperthyroidism, congenital disorders and pituitary gland and kidney diseases. Sometimes cats develop these diseases along with their cardiomyopathy. Treating kidney disease and heart disease "is always a real balancing act," he adds, and cats with late-stage dual diseases typically survive only three to six months.
Dr. Levy reports "substantial success" treating cardiomyopathy with homeopathy, however, even when combined with kidney disease. Most difficult is cardiomyopathy with hyperthyroidism, he believes, yet overall, "in the vast majority of cases, I expect to beat the prognosis of the cardiologists."
He won't discuss specific homeopathic remedies, warning against developing "a cookbook way of thinking. We who know homeopathy still find cardiomyopathy very challenging. Anyone familiar with homeopathy should know they shouldn't be fooling around with this serious disease. Like cancer, you have to know how to find the remedies and follow the case. It takes a real long time to develop that expertise and even if you have the expertise, it's very difficult to be objective enough to see the pattern of symptoms clearly with your own pets."
He advises long-distance clients to get a diagnosis from their vet, then send him the cat's lifetime medical records, owner's observations and listing of all the pet's symptoms before beginning homeopathy, which he explains is based not only on symptoms but "on the cat's preferences, personality, behaviors." He also requires that traditional drugs and "medicinal herbs" be stopped. (That's not a prerequisite of all homeopaths.)
Additionally, the following nutritional supplements have been studied for cardiovascular disease:
Taurine is a proven treatment for DCM, and some vets also supplements with carnitine. Although no one is sure if taurine helps with HCM or RCM, it is commonly prescribed.
Amino acids do many things, including the transport of other important substances like oxygen and nitrogen to the heart, explains Randall Thomason, director of research for Pet Health Pharmacy. In part, he analyzes a cat's blood "to determine what damage is being done to the heart," he says, and then develops a customized formula of natural substances, using amino acid transporters "to get them where they should go without breaking down. With advanced heart cases, often we cannot reverse but we can stabilize the disease so 90 percent of the time, the cat can still live a comfortable life."
Using amino acids plus antioxidants and other naturally occurring chemical substances "is an alternative treatment to create pharmacological effects," he says, but in serious cases, regular drugs may also be given. Owners can consult Thomason but vets must supply the blood samples and write the prescriptions for Pet Essentials individualized nutraceuticals.
Oxygen is crucial to proper heart function, but oxidation harms cells and hastens decay. Antioxidants reduce this cellular damage by trapping and neutralizing free radicals - roaming molecules that break through membranes and create unwanted bridges between cells. Vitamins C, E, A, super oxide dismutase, selenium and zinc are typical antioxidants.
Bioflavonoids (extracted from grape seeds, pine bark and cranberries) are "the most potent free radical scavengers in the plant kingdom," maintains John Mulnix, DVM, consultant to Animal Health Options Inc., which markets Proanthozone antioxidant through veterinarians. "Bioflavonoids also can help reverse the plaquing from cholesterol deposits on artery walls and help create a stronger collagen bond in the artery lining," he adds. "This has a role in slowing the progression of heart disease."
In his own veterinary practice, he treats cardiomyopathy with traditional drugs and antioxidants. There are no studies of bioflavinols for feline cardiomyopathy, but Dr. Mulnix notes a recent Colorado State University study testing Proanthozone on cats with measurable red blood cell injury, saying the research proved the product safe "and indicated that Proanthozone appears to protect red blood cells from oxidative damage."
Europeans more readily accept the benefits of proanthocyanidins (which includes bioflavinols) for cardiovascular and congestive heart diseases, adds nutritional consultant Mark Timmons. "In France, they are sold over-the-counter to improve circulation, take pressure off the heart and stop leakage of fluids for capillaries. Studies in England show that antioxidants reactivate white blood cells that become engorged with cholesterol and also help make the blood less prone to clotting," he says.
Present throughout the body but concentrated especially in heart muscle cells, Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is essential for enzyme activity and energy transfer. It also inhibits oxidative damage. Studies link low levels of CoQ10 to congestive heart failure and other diseases in humans and animals. Supplementation with this vitamin-like substance may remedy diastolic heart problems like feline HCM/RCM.
"With HCM, the heart works too hard. It can't relax," Dr. Goodwin explains. "CoQ10 increases oxygen levels in the heart and may help it relax." He commonly prescribes it in his own practice "with good results - cats have more energy and the heart failure doesn't progress. We don't have a cure for HCM but it helps to treat them with Coenzyme Q10."
Dr. Goodwin is scientifically studying his feline patients on CoQ10 to see if they do better than cats given a placebo. He ultimately plans to track 200 cats with cardiomyopathy, all of who will continue receiving conventional drugs. CoQ10 will not aid DCM, most heart murmurs or valve disorders, he notes. He also advises using only oil-based gelatin capsules not powders or tablets, which degrade. His study involves only the use of Co-Mal-Q10 by Nutramax Laboratories Inc., which is sold through veterinarians.
A major problem treating cardiomyopathy, Dr. Goodwin concludes, is owners who resist drugs, like diuretics, even for short-term use. "To treat a cat in heart failure without diuretics would be very irresponsible. It would be like refusing antibiotics," he says. "Cardiac therapy is often a combination of traditional medicine and holistic therapies. To practice good medicine, you have to avoid a bias against either one of them."
Fran Pennock Shaw is an award-winning freelancer and journalist from Lancaster, PA