6 ways to help cats this Heart Month
February is National Heart Month and a good time to save cats from cardiac disease.
While your clients may be hard at work monitoring their own blood pressure and cholesterol, most of them likely have no idea what condition their cat's heart is in. Initial findings from a study launched by IDEXX Laboratories last spring indicate that one in six cats are at risk for feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Of the more than 3,500 patients tested, greater than 90 percent of practices report taking action—rechecking results or referring the patient to a cardiologist.
Make February the time when you define your role in helping educate your clients about the importance of monitoring their cats' hearts. Here are six simple ways to get started.
1. Agree on a staff game plan
Is the entire staff comfortable talking to clients about next steps when a feline patient has a murmur? Determine with the veterinarian how you can educate without causing alarm or compromising conversations that the doctor may have had with the client already.
2. Is predisposition a factor for the cat?
Does the client own a breed of cat that is genetically predisposed to heart disease? While all types of cats are affected by cardiac disease, including domestic shorthair and longhair varieties, pure breeds such as the American shorthair, Maine coon, Persian, Siamese, Sphinx and Ragdoll are especially prone. Let the cat owner know that she should pay more careful attention and consider screening regularly.
3. Let them know that appearances can be deceiving
The client should understand that unlike the weight correlation with heart disease in humans, "fat cats" are NOT the most susceptible - in fact thin cats may be more prone. That is because of the high correlation of heart disease with hyperthyroidism—hyperthyroid cats tend to be on the thin side.
4. Cats are great actors
Cat owners need to know what wonderful actors their pets can be - they hide illness well and there may be no symptoms apparent with heart disease. Additionally, feline heart disease can strike at any age, often silently. So recommend regular screening.
5." While you're at it. . ."
If you are drawing blood for other tests, let the client know that the blood test to screen for heart disease can be run inexpensively on the sample, and it detects the same markers that human tests reveal in cats who are at risk. In the meantime you can visit informative websites like yourcatsheart.com.
6. Try, try again
If the pet owner doesn't warm up to the idea this time, don't give up! Keep a note in the file that the client may be open to discussing at the next visit.