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Morris Animal Foundation Supports Feline Cardio Study

The following is reprinted, in part, from an article by Amy Ettinger from the current issue of Animal News, a publication of the Morris Animal Foundation.

Heart disease can strike cats in the prime of life—usually between the ages of five and eight years. Cats with heart disease may not show any symptoms until it’s too late for treatment. They can also quickly experience devastating complications, such as heart failure and life-threatening blood clots.

With Morris Animal Foundation funding, researchers at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine are studying whether drugs developed for humans can be beneficial for treating feline heart disease and preventing associated blood clots.

The NC State CVM researchers are evaluating whether beta-blockers can help cats with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), the most common type of feline heart disease. Beta-blockers are prescribed in people to block the effects of adrenaline on the heart, making the heart beat slower and improving oxygenation.

Researchers hope to see a similar response in cats, says Dr. Teresa DeFrancesco, a CVM associate professor of cardiology. Dr. DeFrancesco regularly sees cats with HCM in her clinical practice. Current treatment of HCM usually includes beta-blockers and calcium-channel blockers, but their effectiveness isn’t really known.

“We don’t know if anything we do for these cats will change the outcome in the pre-clinical stage of the disease,” Dr. DeFrancesco says.

During the six-month study, 30 cats will be given either a betablocker or a placebo. Researchers will measure the activity levels of the cats using an accelerometer attached to a collar. Blood tests will measure cardiac biomarkers to assess ischemic injury to the heart and strain on the heart muscle. Finally, veterinarians will perform echocardiograms to see how the heart is filling with blood during the diastolic phase of the cardiac cycle.

Dr. DeFrancesco says she’s grateful for the Foundation funding. “Morris Animal Foundation is a non-biased, independent way of funding these studies,” she says. “The Foundation purely has the interest of the animal in mind.”

June 14, 2011