What is HCM?
HCM is an abbreviation that means ‘‘hypertrophic cardiomyopathy’’. This is a cardiac disease common in cats, whether purebreed or domestic. A lot of Bengals have been diagnosed with HCM. The disease causes the thickening of the heart wall, mainly the left side of the heart and the interventricular septum. A cat with HCM may show these signs: difficult breathing, coughing, exercise intolerance, decreased appetite, weight loss, heart murmurs. However, some cats do not show any obvious symptoms and die suddenly... There is no cure for this disease and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy can reduce life expectancy.
How is it inherited?
Although the modes of transmission are hypothetical at this time, experts and breeders suggest that HCM is caused by a dominant gene in Bengals. This means that if one parent has the gene, 50% of its offspring will be affected by HCM. It could even be as high as 75 to 100% of the offspring if both parents have HCM.
How can we detect the disease?
The only reliable way to detect the early signs of this disease is to perform an echocardiogram of the heart. The screening must be done by a board certified veterinary cardiologist. As the HCM can occur at any age, an ultrasound should be performed on a yearly basis, or at least once every two years. We can not rely on a simple stethoscope examination or X-ray. Cats with HCM do not always have a heart murmur and a heart murmur does not necessarily mean that a cat has HCM. Reputable breeders screen all their breeding stock annually to ensure they stay HCM negative and have no heart defect. Positive or equivocal cats are neutered and removed from breeding programs.
Is there a DNA test available?
To date, there is no genetic test that can detect HCM in Bengals. However, studies are underway. Researchers must first identify the gene(s) responsible for the disease in Bengal cats. In other breeds such as Maine Coon, some HCM-causing genes are identified. However, the genes causing HCM is not the same as in Bengals. Therefore, we can’t use that test for Bengals.
Here at Maracaja:
All our breeding cats are screened annually for HCM by a board certified cardiologist. We also chose our breeding cats exclusively from breeders who screen for HCM. We will never adopt a Bengal kitten if both parents are not HCM screened. Any person who wishes to adopt a Bengal should do the same.
We are for the longevity of the Bengal breed. Breeding healthy and balanced cats is our goal and we do all we can to achieve it!