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Cats and blood clots

Q: My cat Tango was diagnosed with a type of heart disease called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. He is taking medication, but his veterinarian said he is at risk of saddle thromboembolism, a blood clot that forms in the heart and travels down to block the arteries to the legs, causing pain and inability to walk.

She said the condition develops suddenly, and if it occurs, I should be prepared to start treatment or immediately euthanize Tango to end his suffering. Can you offer some advice?

A: Thromboembolism (TE) is common in cats with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, particularly if they are male and middle-aged. At least half the cats with TE are immediately euthanized, so your veterinarian was wise to encourage you to consider this.

Of the cats with TE that undergo treatment, only 20 percent survive for a year. Even with daily medication, the recurrence rate is 80 percent.

If Tango develops a TE and you elect to treat him, be sure his pain is managed effectively. If you decide to euthanize him, you’ll know you are relieving his suffering and sparing him a recurrence of this painful condition.

Editor’s Note: In cats with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, there’s risk of saddle thrombosis. Dr. Lee discusses this emergency condition and symptoms, such as hind leg dragging in cats.

Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at

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