Cardiac cachexia in cats with congestive heart failure: Prevalence and clinical, laboratory, and survival findings

J Vet Intern Med. 2020 Jan;34(1):35-44. doi: 10.1111/jvim.15672. Epub 2019 Dec 3.


Background: Cardiac cachexia is common in people and dogs with congestive heart failure (CHF). However, the prevalence and effects of cardiac cachexia in cats are unknown.

Objectives: To determine the prevalence of cachexia and its associations with clinical laboratory and survival data in cats with CHF.

Animals: One hundred twenty-five cats with CHF.

Methods: Medical records of cats evaluated during a 40-month period were retrospectively reviewed to identify cats with cardiac cachexia using 7 different definitions. Clinical, laboratory, and survival data were compared between cats with and without cachexia.

Results: Prevalence of cachexia ranged from 0 to 66.7% for the 7 definitions, with a prevalence of 41.6% using muscle condition score (MCS). Cats with cachexia (determined by MCS) were older (P < .001), more likely to have pleural effusion (P = .003), had significantly higher blood urea nitrogen (P < .001) and neutrophil concentrations (P = .01), and significantly lower body condition score (P < .001), body weights (P < .001), hematocrit (P = .007), and hemoglobin concentrations (P = .009). Survival time for cats with cachexia (determined by MCS) was significantly shorter than for cats without cachexia (P = .03). Cats that were underweight (P = .002) and cats with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) also had shorter survival times (P = .04).

Conclusions and clinical importance: The association between cachexia and reduced survival time emphasizes the importance of identifying and addressing this common problem in cats with CHF.

Keywords: cardiology; cardiomyopathy; congestive heart failure; muscle; nutrition.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cachexia / etiology
  • Cachexia / pathology
  • Cachexia / veterinary*
  • Cat Diseases / etiology*
  • Cat Diseases / pathology
  • Cats
  • Female
  • Heart Failure / complications
  • Heart Failure / veterinary*
  • Longevity
  • Male

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