Genetic disorders in Maine coon cats

Feline Hypertropic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)

This is a hereditary disease that affects a cat’s heart muscle. Veterinarians frequently refer to it a silent killer. This is because it’s hard to diagnose. Sometimes the only sign of the illness is the cat’s sudden death.

When a Maine Coon cat develops HCM, the muscle walls of its heart thicken. Eventually, they can’t contract properly. This interferes with the heart’s ability to pump efficiently. While this inherited condition typically strikes middle-aged cats – particularly males – kittens and young cats can also develop it.

Symptoms include unwillingness to eat, lethargy, rapid and shallow breathing and coughing. Some cats faint. The buildup of fluid HCM can produce a blood clot that blocks blood flow to the cat’s hind legs. The result is paralysis.

Vets use an echocardiogram to diagnose the disorder. Treatment, while not always successful, includes using beta blockers, diuretics and ACE inhibitors.

Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA)

SMA is also genetically inherited. It appears as lameness in the rear end in kittens due to the death of spinal cord neurons.

Affected kittens act otherwise normal and can live comfortably for years with this disorder. They just won’t be able to run and jump as well as healthy cats. Breeders are able to test for this condition to identify cats that are carriers.

Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD)

Maine Coon cats are also predisposed to PKD, which also affects many Persian or Persian-related felines. The disease causes cysts on the kidneys. These growths multiply and grow in size as the cat gets older.

Symptoms include weight loss, depression and increased thirst and urination. Owners might also see vomiting. Although PKD is irreversible, it generally progresses slowly. Vets consider ultrasound the most reliable method to diagnose the disorder.

This condition ends in kidney failure and is always fatal. The standard treatment is the same as that used for other types of chronic kidney failure in cats. Therapy typically includes a restricted diet, subcutaneous fluids, hormone therapy, other medication or a combination of these options.

Hip Dysplasia

Since many Maine Coons are big cats, inherited hip dysplasia is prevalent in this breed. As the cat grows in height and weight, the condition eventually becomes apparent.

Feline hip dysplasia causes cartilage in the hip joint to disintegrate. The ball and socket don’t fit together correctly, or the cat’s bones might grind together. Sometimes bones pop out of joint. The result of any of these events is pain and arthritis.

Vets diagnose this disorder using X-rays. They have at their disposal a variety of treatments. Among them are weight loss, dietary supplements and medication for pain. Severe cases might warrant surgery.

Overall, Maine Coon cats are healthy felines. However, due to their predisposition to several serious illnesses, an owner considering a Maine Coon should consider  buying only from breeders who scan their breeding cats.