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Managing Supraventricular Tachycardia in Cats: Causes Symptoms and Treatment

Supraventricular Tachycardia in Cats:

Causes, Symptoms,

Diagnosis and


Do you have a beloved cat at home? As a cat owner, it is important to know about potential medical conditions that your furry friend may encounter.

One of these conditions is called supraventricular tachycardia (SVT). Understanding what it is, what causes it, and how to identify and treat it can help ensure your pet’s well-being.

Definition and Symptoms

Supraventricular tachycardia, or SVT, is a heart condition characterized by abnormal electrical activity in the cat’s heart that results in a rapid heartbeat. A cat’s normal heart rate usually ranges between 120 to 140 beats per minute.

However, with SVT, the heart rhythm can become very fast, often exceeding 240 beats per minute. If a cat develops SVT, they may begin to exhibit signs of heart disease.

Some common symptoms include rapid breathing, coughing, weakness, fainting, and breathing abnormalities. If left untreated, SVT can worsen and lead to congestive heart failure (CHF), where your cat’s heart struggles to pump blood effectively.


There are many potential causes of SVT in cats. Heart disease is a leading cause, along with the use of certain medications or electrolyte imbalances.

In some cases, SVT may also result from digoxin toxicity, which is when too much of a particular drug (digoxin) has been administered to a cat.


If you suspect that your cat may have SVT, you should take them to a veterinarian as soon as possible. The vet will typically perform a physical exam to assess the cat’s heart rate and listen for any abnormal sounds in its chest.

They may also suggest laboratory tests to help determine the cause of the condition and to check for possible underlying causes. One of the most common tests used to diagnose SVT is an electrocardiogram (EKG).

An EKG records the heart’s electrical activity, allowing your veterinarian to determine if your cat’s heart is beating at a healthy rate. These tests can also help identify if any underlying conditions or medication use may be contributing to the SVT.


If your cat is diagnosed with SVT, quick and effective treatment is essential. Early care may improve your pet’s long-term prognosis and reduce their risk of developing CHF.

Initial treatment often involves hospitalization, as the condition can become life-threatening quickly. Non-pharmacologic interventions, such as decreasing stressors or alleviating anxiety, can sometimes help manage SVT.

Depending on the underlying cause, medication may also be prescribed to manage the heart condition. Some veterinary cardiologists specialize in treating cats with heart conditions and can provide specialized care.

Dietary changes can also be helpful, such as reducing salt intake in your cat’s food to help minimize fluid buildup in the lungs, which can further exacerbate heart conditions.

Symptoms and Types

There are two main types of SVT: slow and fast. Slow SVT, also called non-compensatory SVT, occurs when the heart rate remains steady, at a rate of less than 180 beats per minute.

Fast SVT is much more severe and characterized by a heart rate greater than 220 beats per minute.

Clinical Signs

Symptoms of SVT in cats can be varied, but the most common signs you should watch out for include weakness, coughing, fainting, breathing abnormalities, and CHF. Recognizing these symptoms early and taking your cat in for a diagnosis and treatment is vital to their health.

In short, SVT is a serious but manageable condition that cat owners should be aware of. If you suspect your cat may have SVT, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with a veterinarian to get them the care they need.

With early diagnosis and treatment, you can improve your cat’s quality of life and prevent further complications from developing. Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) can occur in cats at any age, though it is most commonly found in middle-aged or older cats.

When a cat experiences SVT, its heart’s electrical activity becomes irregular, causing a rapid heartbeat. As a pet owner, it is essential to be aware of the potential causes of SVT in cats and the diagnostic testing needed to confirm a diagnosis.


Heart Disease: Heart disease is the most common cause of SVT in cats. Myocardial failure is a type of heart disease where the heart muscles don’t contract adequately, often leading to an accumulation of fluid in the lungs and, in some cases, SVT.

Heart disease can lead to structural heart abnormalities that can disrupt the regular electrical signals sent by the heart. Toxicity and Imbalances: Exposure to certain drugs, including digoxin or electrolyte imbalances, can be another cause of SVT.

Cats exposed unintentionally to human medication is a common cause of SVT. Furthermore, commonly used anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen can cause electrolyte imbalances, leading to an increased risk of SVT.


Causes: Some cases of SVT appear to occur for no discernable reason. However, some cats may have received a genetic predisposition.


Physical Exam and Laboratory Tests: If you suspect your cat has SVT, a physical exam is the first step in diagnosis. Biochemical profiles, complete blood counts, urinalysis, and serum electrolyte panels can help determine the underlying cause of the condition.

These tests can detect if the cat has been exposed to toxins, is experiencing an underlying disease, or indicates possible electrolyte imbalance. Electrocardiogram (EKG): To diagnose SVT, veterinarians will perform an EKG on the cat.

EKG machines record the electrical currents generated as the heart beats and transmits those electrical signals to a recording device. EKG records can provide important diagnostic information, such as identifying cardiac electrical conduction abnormalities and myocardial function evaluation.

Ambulatory and Event Recording: Holter recording and event loop recorder evaluations are recording devices worn close to a cat’s chest to capture heart activity over an extended period. These tests are usually done over 24 hours and are capable of recording moments when the cat experiences an SVT episode.

The data obtained entails the frequency of the SVT occurrences and their duration over an extended time. Syncope: Another diagnostic tool to detect SVT in cats is to assess for syncope, which is a temporary loss of consciousness or fainting caused by an inadequate supply to vital organs, including the brain, due to decreased blood flow to the heart and brain.


The treatment of SVT in cats depends on the severity of the condition, the underlying cause, and a cat’s overall health status. If the underlying condition of a cat with SVT is heart disease, specific medications may be prescribed to manage the cat’s heart and improve heart function.

Medications like beta-blockers or calcium channel blockers can be used to manage the cat’s heart rate, helping to reduce the frequency and severity of SVT episodes. If the underlying cause of the SVT in the cat is toxicity or an electrolyte imbalance, veterinary hospitalization and supportive care may be necessary.

Cats can be fragile, and it is often better to have them hospitalized while monitoring therapy and seeking an avenue of treatment without inducing complications. With unknown causes of SVT, other supportive care measures such as limiting stressors, reducing sodium and salt intake, and finding measures to cope with anxiety can be helpful.

In extreme cases that threaten a cat’s life, surgery may be an option. An electrophysiologist performs surgery to repair damaged heart components like the SA node (where the electrical pacemaker impulses originate), effectively resolving the condition.


Supraventricular tachycardia in cats can be a severe condition that often requires immediate attention. Early detection of the underlying cause of the disease facilitates treatment and enhances the chances of long-term recovery.

As a pet owner, it is essential to recognize the signs and symptoms of SVT and seek the advice of professionals from a veterinary hospital to safeguard your cat’s health. The prognosis for cats with SVT is generally good, but it depends on the duration and severity of the condition and the underlying cause.

Be sure to keep up with preventive measures like regular veterinary visits, consistent nutrition, and mental and physical exercises. Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) can affect cats at any age, and treatment of SVT depends on the severity of the condition and the underlying cause.

The treatments are essentially grouped into hospitalization and emergency interventions, medication and dietary changes, and follow-up appointments. Each of these treatment methods is vital in managing and reducing the severity of SVT in cats.

Hospitalization and Emergency Interventions

Hospitalization may be necessary if a cat exhibits sustained SVT episodes or congestive heart failure (CHF). Emergency interventions can help reverse the SVT, prevent CHF, and keep a cat stable before tests can be performed to determine the underlying cause of the SVT.

One form of emergency intervention is the use of vagal maneuvers, where your veterinarian may instruct you to massage your cat’s neck or other areas of their body to calm them. Another intervention is precordial thump that involves striking the chest over the heart area.

These maneuvers can help restore the cat’s normal heart rhythm. Another emergency intervention is electrical cardioversion and is performed if other maneuvers are unsuccessful.

Electrical cardioversion involves the use of a low-energy electric shock administered to the cat’s heart to restore the normal heart rhythm. This shock helps the heart reestablish regular electrical impulses and quickly alleviate the SVT and its associated symptoms.

Medication and Dietary Changes

Once the cat has been stabilized, prescription medication can be prescribed to manage the underlying condition causing the SVT. Antiarrhythmic medications like beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers can be used to manage high heart rates and prevent the onset of future episodes.

Dietary changes like low-sodium diets can be prescribed to reduce or restrict cats’ sodium intake, which helps to manage fluid accumulation and prevent CHF. Restricted activity can also be advised to minimize stress and anxiety and help improve the cat’s heart function.

Furthermore, drug-induced SVT like digoxin toxicities will require appropriate medication, including antidotes for toxicity. Preventing cats from exposure to plants that cause cardiac toxicity like lilies, azaleas, or certain mushrooms, can help reduce the risk of intoxication.

Follow-up Appointments

After hospitalization and medication, the veterinarian will often recommend follow-up appointments. It is crucial to attend regular follow-up appointments to monitor your cat’s heart condition and assess how well they respond to medication or treatments.

The frequency of follow-up appointments will vary depending on the severity of the cat’s condition. In cases where the underlying cause of SVT is due to an underlying heart condition, follow-up appointments may be scheduled to provide treatment to manage the underlying heart disease.

Pharmacotherapy for diltiazem, digoxin, or diuretic therapy for HCM may be necessary for an extended period to prevent the recurrence of SVT. The veterinarian may also recommend other lifestyle modifications such as weight loss, exercise, and reducing caffeine, which can trigger SVT in cats susceptible to the condition.


Supraventricular tachycardia in cats is a severe health condition that requires immediate attention. Hospitalization and emergency interventions like vagal maneuvers, precordial thump, and electrical cardioversion are important in reversing SVT episodes.

Prescription medication, dietary changes, and follow-up appointments are also necessary to manage the cat’s underlying heart conditions. As a pet owner, it is important to pay attention to your cat’s symptoms and promptly seek medical attention to improve their chances of recovery.

Regular veterinary visits, consistent nutrition, and mental and physical exercises remain critical to the prevention of SVT and the promotion of good health for your feline friends. Ultimately, a collaborative partnership with your veterinarian is vital in providing the necessary care to manage your cat’s heart condition associated with SVT.

Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) is a heart condition that can impact cats of any age. The condition is caused by an irregularity in the heart’s electrical activity, leading to a rapid heartbeat.

Understanding the potential causes, diagnostic methods, and treatment options available is crucial to managing SVT in cats.

Treatment methods include emergency interventions, prescription medication, dietary changes, and follow-up appointments. As a pet owner, recognizing the signs and symptoms of SVT and seeking prompt medical attention is essential in promoting a positive prognosis for your feline friend.

Regular veterinary visits, a nutritious diet, and moderate exercise are key preventative measures that can aid in promoting good health for your pets, which can reduce the likelihood of developing SVT.

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