Cardiomyopathy means disease of the heart muscle, and today, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the most common heart disease seen in cats of all types. Many cats live normal lives with HCM, but others will suffer devastating consequences such as heart failure, thromboembolism and sudden death. From the experiences of breeders and owners of many pedigreed cat breeds, it was suspected that HCM is inherited in cats, as it often is in people.
Mark Kittleson, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, and his colleagues at the University of California, Davis, determined that HCM is an autosomal dominant inherited disease in Maine Coon Cats, and established guidelines for diagnosis of HCM using ultrasound imaging of the heart. In 2004, Kathryn Meurs, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, and her colleagues at Washington State University, along with Dr. Kittleson and his colleagues, discovered the first genetic mutation causing HCM in Maine Coon Cats. In 2007, Dr. Meurs and her team discovered a different mutation causing HCM in Ragdoll cats. A simple DNA test using cheek swab is now available for both breeds.
Research in other cat breeds is ongoing because, as with human HCM, it appears many different mutations may lead to feline HCM. Finding the genetic mutations that cause disease may one day open the door to improved treatments for cats with HCM.