Atrioventricular Block, Complete (Third Degree) in Cats
Much like a control center, the heart's sinoartial node (SA) is responsible for controlling the heart rate. This electrical conduction system generates electrical impulses (waves), which propagate through the atrioventricular (AV) node and into the ventricles, stimulating the heart's muscles to contract and push blood through the interior arteries and out into the body.
Complete, or third-degree, atrioventricular block is a condition in which all impulses generated by the SA node are blocked at the AV node, leading to independent and non-coordinated beating of atria and ventricles.
Complete heart block usually occurs in older cats except those having congenital (born with) heart disease.
Symptoms and Types
- Difficulty breathing
- Inability to perform routine exercise
- Slow heart rate (bradycardia)
- Congenital (present at birth) heart defects
- Idiopathic fibrosis (scarring of heart tissue due to unknown cause)
- Inflammation of heart (myocarditis)
- Inflammation of lining of heart (endocarditis)
- Inappropriate enlargement or thickening of heart muscles (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy)
- Infiltration of heart muscle by some abnormal substance or cancer (amyloidosis or neoplasia)
- Drug toxicity (i.e., digitalis)
- Electrolyte imbalances
- Heart attack (myocardial infarction)
- Lyme disease
- Chagas' Disease
You will need to give a thorough history of your cat’s health, including the onset and nature of the symptoms, to your veterinarian. He or she will then perform a complete physical examination, as well as a biochemistry profile, urinalysis, and complete blood count (CBC). Cats suffering from infections of the heart will demonstrate high white blood cell count on blood testing, while biochemistry profile may reveal electrolyte imbalances.
Your veterinarian will record the electrocardiograph, or ECG, which is extremely beneficial to make an initial diagnosis. Echocardiography and Doppler ultrasound are performed in animals with abnormal ECG finding, and those with symptoms associated with heart issues.