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ForestWind Siberian Cat Breeder Tests For Heart Disease

Posted on October 21, 2013 at 12:00 AM

Any feline can be diagnosed with heart disease. The most comon inherited feline heart disease is HCM = Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy.

This disease is a tricky one for cat breeders and veterinarians alike. While HCM is inherited dominantly (meaning if the gene is inherited, the cat has the disease), confusingly the disease is not always obviously expressed. This genetic disease pattern is referrred to as "dominant with incomplete expression."

What dominant with incomplete expression means is that there is some other factor or factors that must be in place in order for the cat to express (be affected by) the disease.

Since this disease "hides," it is important for cat breeders to be diligent in testing for it. Why don't all breeders test, and test repeatedly, for HCM? Because it is expensive and inconvenient to test.  A specialist is needed to reliably conduct the scanning, and one can not test once and be done.  Instead, breeders must test every two years during the breeding life of the cat, and then several times after the cat is retired in order to be sure they are not passing on a deadly disease in their kittens.

How is testing for HCM conducted?

For Pet Owners:

1. Physical exam with a stethoscope (ausculted).

2. If a murmur or gallop is heard, follow-up with an echocardiogram/ultrasound of the heart

> All ultrasonographers are not of the same level of training or quality and it is important to pick your Specialist carefully. 

Select a board certified Veterinary specialist with a lot of  experience in this area.

3. Echocardiography/ultrasound must be repeated as HCM is a disease typified by adult onset. That means a cat who appears clear as a teenager or young adult may in fact be affected, and signs of the disease will become apparent when the cat is 7, 8, 10 years or even older.

For Cat Breeders:

1. Testing by echocardiogram/ultrasound of the heart is conducted biannually with the first scan completed prior to beginning the Siberian Cat's breeding career.

> Cat breeders need to have the HCM echosonographs conducted by a Board Certified Veterinary Specialist. This means a Veterinarian nationally board certified as an Internist (technically SAIM = Small Animal Internal Medicine) or as a Cardiologist. (Find a Specialist). [There are different types of certification in different countries, be sure to check with your Veterinarian to be sure of the proper qualitifcations for the diagnosing specialist].

> Breeders should not rely on auscultation. Why not? Because breeders must take full precautions to ensure they are not passing on deadly diseases in the kittens they produce. Therefor, the testing standards for cat breeders are higher than those for a pet owner.

> If a breeder can not afford to test, or is not able to have her cats tested biannually for HCM, she should take a sabbatical from breeding. When working with living creatures excuses such as "It's inconvenient" or "It's too expensive" do not wash. If one can not afford to breed responsibly, one should not breed at all.

> ForestWind Siberian Cat Breeder tests its Siberians biannually for HCM.

> ForestWind Siberian Cat Breeder tests retired Siberians triannually for HCM.

    > Retired Siberians without offspring in breeding are tested at retirement and once again by age 10.

in Memory of Zhemchuzina Dostoyanie Sibiri, died 2012, HCM.

Categories: Care Practices, Health & Disease, Genetics