Pectus Excavatum, or “hollow breast” in Latin, is a rare chest wall deformity in cats that affects the proper formation of rib cartilage and the sternum. This condition, also known as flat-chested syndrome or funnel chest, occurs during fetal development and results in a concave or sunken chest wall.
Unveiling the Symptoms
While some kittens with Pectus Excavatum may appear normal, there are common symptoms to look out for. These include palpable concavity of the chest wall, trouble breathing, increased breathing rate, inadequate growth rate, coughing, increased heart rate, cyanosis (a blue-tinted skin caused by lack of oxygen), heart murmur, and exercise intolerance.
What Causes Pectus Excavatum in Cats?
The exact cause of Pectus Excavatum in cats is still unknown. However, it is believed to be a congenital defect, meaning it occurs during the growing fetus stage. Some genetic factors may also contribute to the development of this condition, with Bengal and Burmese cat breeds being more predisposed.
Diagnosing the Condition
Veterinarians usually diagnose Pectus Excavatum through a physical examination and by feeling the chest wall. To confirm the diagnosis and determine the severity, X-rays and CT scans of the chest may be performed. The CT scan can also provide insights into potential heart dysfunction caused by the displacement. Additionally, other congenital defects might be present, which may require further testing like echocardiography.
For cats not showing symptoms, treatment may not be necessary. However, if clinical symptoms are present, surgical repair of the chest wall deformity is recommended. Typically, surgical specialists at veterinary medical schools or specialty referral hospitals perform the procedure.
There are three types of surgical repair: external splinting, internal splinting, and a combination of both.
The external splinting technique is suitable for kittens with flexible bones and cartilage. It involves attaching a splint to the chest wall with stitches. The splint applies gentle and constant force to the sternum, gradually correcting the deformity. The splint is usually worn for four to eight weeks. If external splinting is not successful, internal splinting is the next step.
Internal splinting requires the insertion of a plate into the cat’s body, connected to the inside of the sternum. This plate acts as a bridge between the deformed and non-deformed parts of the sternum, allowing for space normalization in the chest cavity and correcting heart displacement. In some cases, muscle attachments or pieces of bone or cartilage may need to be removed for plate placement and sternal repositioning. Recovery from this surgery involves intensive care monitoring, IV fluids, antibiotics, pain medication, and observation for post-operative complications.
Some patients may require a combination of internal surgery followed by external splinting.
Recovery and Management
The recovery and management of Pectus Excavatum depend on the severity of the deformity and the chosen surgical method. Pain medication is administered to ensure the cat’s comfort, and antibiotics may be prescribed to prevent or treat any possible infections.
External splints are worn for four to eight weeks, and regular check-ups are conducted to monitor healing progress. Periodic X-rays are also taken to track the patient’s improvement.
With proper care and attention, cats with Pectus Excavatum can lead happy and fulfilling lives.
For more information about Pectus Excavatum, visit Katten TrimSalon.