Maine Coons are amazing cats and are typically very big, strong and healthy cats. Just like any living creature, they do have their known health issues. The most reputable Maine Coon breeders will take the necessary precautions to try and prevent these, you may still find yourself faced with a health issue at some point in your cat’s life. It’s important to know what some of the risks are when it comes to owning a Maine Coon.
In this article we’ll explore some of the most common Maine Coon Health Issues. It’s not written to scare you, but to bring awareness to the issues that this breed faces. If you’re thinking about adopting a Maine Coon Kitten, take the time to learn everything that you can about the breed. 🙂
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or HCM, is a health condition that affects the heart’s ability to pump blood throughout a body. It causes the muscular walls of the heart to hypertrophy, or thicken. Over time, as the walls become stiff, the heart cannot hold as much blood, which may cause abnormal heart rhythms, blood clots, congestive heart failure, or fluid in the lungs.
The nst tool to diagnose HCM is an echocardiogram. The evaluating doctor can check the size, shape and functioning of the heart.
Age of onset
The typical age for a Maine Coon to develop HCM is around or after 3 years of age. However, the condition can develop in cats as young as 6 months old and as late in life as 8 years old.
An essential part of treatment for HCM is early diagnosis and knowing how likely your cat is to develop the disease. Studies show that around one-third of Maine Coon cats carry a mutated gene linked to HMA. Asymptomatic cats may require no treatment. However, cats that are showing symptoms such as labored breathing, weight loss, blue gums, paralysis of the hind legs, and lethargy may receive treatment.
Treatments for HCM include medication therapy (ACE inhibitors), propranolol. diuretics, aspirin, a sodium-restricted diet, and limiting their exposures to environmental stress.
The prognosis for a Maine Coon with HMA varies. Cats with no health effects can live for years after discovery with a proper diet and medication. However, cats suffering from the effects of HCM, like congestive heart failure, often have shorter life spans.
Maine coons with a family history of HMA or mutated genes are 26 times more susceptible. A genetic test cannot tell you for sure whether or not a pet will develop it, but it is a helpful tool to try and avoid DNA that carries the mutation. Even if the kitten inherits ONE allele, he is at greater risk of developing HCM. Understanding a cat’s probability of developing a condition can help you structure your cat’s routine so as to give it the best quality of life should HCM develop. When selecting a breeder to work with for your new Maine Coon kitten, be sure that they are testing every breeding cat’s DNA and use only cats that do NOT carry the HCM gene.
Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA)
Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) is a genetic disease that impacts the muscles around the spine and limbs. It causes the muscles to become weak and waste away.
The symptoms include weakness, an awkward gait (walk), odd posture, and, by 6 months of age and older, difficulty jumping or landing and reduced muscle mass in the legs. Early signs may not be obvious as kittens or cats will still play eat as usual.
Age of Onset
The first signs of this condition are typically noticeable by the time the cat is 3 to 4 months old. It typically progresses slowly. Tremors, inability to exercise, trouble breathing, and sensitivity to touch along their back develop later.
There is no treatment or cure for SMA, but lifestyle changes are advised to help your cat live well. A recommendation for cat owners is to keep your cat inside and that you keep food, water, and the litter box in easily accessible areas. Make sure rooms are easy for them to maneuver.
Maine Coons with SMA typically enjoy a lifespan of around 8 or 9 years. The disease gets worse in older age, potentially causing trouble breathing, eating, and lethargy.
SMA is passed down in a recessive fashion. This means the offspring of two cats with the genes responsible for SMA will likely develop the disease. Be sure that your breeder is testing their breeding cats through DNA and NOT using any cats that carry the SMA gene in their program.
Polycystic Kidney Disease
Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) is an inherited disease. An affected Maine Coon is born with malignant, or noncancerous cysts in the kidneys. These cysts grow as the cat ages, often slowly. Early signs, like an increase in thirst and blood in the urine, mimic other kidney and urinary conditions.
Age of Onset
PKD is present at birth, but a cat may not show signs until middle age, or 7 to 8 years old. It is tested for with ultrasound or genetic screening.
PKD has no official or specific treatment because the ways it impacts cats vary. There is no cure. Supportive treatments include a special diet, medication, and fluid therapy.
By the age of 7, Maine Coons typically show clinical signs of PKD like frequent urination, weight loss, increased thirst, fatigue, and vomiting. With supportive care and medication, they may live a few more years.
PKD is an autosomal dominant genetic disease. Only one parent must have the faulty gene responsible for this condition for offspring to be affected. Be sure that your breeder is testing their breeding cats through DNA and NOT using any cats that carry the PKD gene in their program.
Hip dysplasia is most often seen in dogs, but it also affects large purebred cats at high rates as well. This condition is characterized by the malformation of the hips joints and later development of arthritis. Symptoms include a limp that worsens with age, difficulty jumping or exercising, fatigue, stiffness, and muscle weakness or loss of muscle mass in the back legs.
Age of Onset
Hip dysplasia is present at birth, but it is rare for a cat to show any signs until later in life. Factors like age, body mass, and activity level play a part in the progression.
Treatment for hip dysplasia in cats includes surgery, including total hip replacement, to improve movement, stability, and pain. Management of weight, nutritional supplements, and medication to reduce inflammation and help with pain are also common types of care.
Hip dysplasia is a degenerative condition and gets more severe with age. With the right treatments, regular vet visits, and supportive care, you can live a happy life.
Maine Coons are one of the largest domestic cat breeds. This is a potential factor that makes them more likely to inherit and pass on hip dysplasia. Studies suggest that around 20% of large purebreds are susceptible. With the risk of hip dysplasia in Maine Coons, it’s not always favorable to breed for size (i.e. the “biggest” Maine Coon you can find). Be mindful of the average sizes of males and females. While giant Maine Coons are cool to look at, you don’t want to compromise health for size in the long run.
Regarding Maine Coon Health Issues, Knowledge is Power
When it comes to the above Maine Coon health issues, it’s best to be prepared. By understanding the conditions your Maine Coon is at risk for, you can work on combatting the conditions. You can also be very selective and choose the most reputable Maine Coon breeder that you can find to obtain your kitten from. While you may not be able to cure them, acting early can increase a cat’s quality of life and may even extend its life by several years or more.
It should be the ultimate goal of every breeder to use only the healthiest most robust cats in their breeding program. It certainly is my number one goal! While nothing is guaranteed, it’s nice to know that everything that could be done in the beginning to try to prevent any issues is being done. Just like the wonderful parents who adopt our kittens, I want my kittens to live their longest, healthiest and happiest life.