Current News

Cardiology Service Continues Work with Feline Disorder

June 27, 2016

The Cardiology Service is treating Joey for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

The Cardiology Service is treating Joey for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

The most common form of feline heart disease is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), which results in thickening of the walls of the heart ventricles, interfering with the flow of blood, and leading to sometimes fatal consequences. This same heart disease can also be found in humans, and is often the cause of death when a young, seemingly healthy athlete dies on the playing field.

HCM affects approximately one in 500 people and was recently reported to affect a startling one in seven cats. More than 1,500 genetic mutations have been associated with the disease in humans, which creates challenges for researchers. However, veterinary scientists are making breakthroughs since the cat population is less diverse and has higher incidence of disease. Not only does this collaboration help human research, it makes strides in treating cats with the disorder.

UC Davis’ Dr. Josh Stern, chief of the veterinary hospital’s Cardiology Service, has been studying HCM for years and is currently treating many cats with the disease.

“This disease of the heart muscle is often clinically silent without any indication that a cat might harbor this condition, similar to how it manifests in humans,” said Dr. Stern. “Ultimately some cats go on to develop severe consequences like congestive heart failure and sudden cardiac death.”

Currently, there is no cure for HCM in cats, but the genetics research is helping to develop better treatment options. Medications are typically utilized that aim to prevent blood clots, improve blood flow and control heart rate.

“We are working to understand how the genetics of a cat might impact their response to drug therapies commonly used to treat these conditions,” Dr. Stern said. “We are investigating the genetics of blood clot formation in these cats, prevalence and relevance of cardiac arrhythmias, and response to commonly used medical therapies. Finally, we are very excited about an ongoing project investigating the response to a novel drug therapy that could ultimately slow or even reverse the disease progress.”

The clinical cardiology team at UC Davis will begin a clinical trial for cats with HCM in the coming months. The trial will include screening examination costs and medications. If you have a cat with HCM, please look for an upcoming announcement of the trial on the Veterinary Center for Clinical Trials website.

One patient in particular who is benefitting from UC Davis’ work with HCM is Joey, an 8-year-old male domestic shorthair cat. Joey’s dedicated owner, Ashley Workman, brought him to UC Davis where he was seen by the Cardiology Service. Due to his advanced condition, Joey was initially thought to only have a month to live. He was placed on several medications to control and hopefully improve his HCM condition, and was monitored regularly. His condition has stabilized, and Joey’s activity levels are inconsistent with a cat in his condition.

“It has now been six months, and he is still running around like a champ,” according to Workman. “I am so grateful for everything UC Davis has done for Joey. They have been able to prolong his life so he is able to live a full and happy life.” 

To properly treat Joey (and other cats with HCM), frequent reevaluations and medications are required. When Workman was faced with this information, the financial hardship was a big concern that was blocking Joey’s access to the best medical care. Fortunately, Joey’s care was made possible, in part, by a generous donation to the School of Veterinary Medicine by Patti and Kevin Clayton, who helped establish the Feline Compassionate Care Fund in honor of their late cat Mary (who was also treated for HCM by Dr. Stern). The fund has since been able to help many cats with heart disease. To support the Feline Compassionate Care Fund, please visit

#   #   #

About the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital
The William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the University of California, Davis—a unit of the #1 world ranked School of Veterinary Medicine—provides state-of-the-art clinical care while serving as the primary clinical teaching experience for DVM students and post graduate veterinarian residents. The VMTH treats more than 51,000 animals a year, ranging from cats and dogs to horses, cows and exotic species. To learn more about the VMTH, please go to Timely news updates can be received on its Facebook ( and Twitter ( pages.

Media Contact:
Rob Warren
VMTH Communications & Marketing Officer