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  • Writer's pictureKaylee Sanabria

Maine coon health issues: What you need to know before buying one.

Updated: Jul 26, 2023

Maine coons have become extremely popular and are in high demand right now. This comes with an influx of people buying them without doing the necessary research. Here we are going to discuss the health issues in the Maine coon breed as well as cat viruses and ways breeders can decrease these things in their kittens. Regal lane in among the few in our state charging a this price point while also doing not just full DNA panels but hip/elbow x-rays and Echocardiograms to be sure we are working with only the healthiest cats.

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (hcm)

The most common type of heart disease in cats is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), which is also very common in Maine coons. HCM thickens the heart wall, which causes a variety of problems including the inability to perform normal heart functions and the development of heart failure, which can result in sudden cardiac death.

Although there is a DNA test for HCM, this does not guarantee that a cat will never develop the disease because the mutation tested for is not the only cause of HCM and the other cause is unknown. If a cat is n/n (no copies of the mutant allele), it simply means that the cat is less likely to develop HCM than cats who have one or two copies of the mutated allele. Only n/n cats will be bred in my cattery.

Maine coons (especially ones who are breeding) need to have echocardiograms yearly as it is the only way to guarantee that a cat doesn't have HCM.

Spinal Muscular Atrophy (sma)

Spinal muscular atrophy (sma) is a genetic disorder that causes the loss of neurons (nerves) in the spinal cord that control muscles in the limbs. This causes muscle weakness, and clinical signs appear by 3-4 months of age.

There is a DNA test for SMA which unlike HCM is a guarantee that a cat will not develop the genetic disorder. Cats that are n/n (no copies) or n/s (carrier) will never develop the disorder. Carriers can be bred but never to another carrier and affected cats should never reproduce.

Polycystic Kidney Disease

Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) is a genetic disorder that causes cysts in the kidneys from birth that grow slowly over a period of about 7 years. These cysts can interfere with kidney function and lead to kidney failure.

There is also a DNA test for PKD. Carriers will be affected by this disorder as well. Carriers of one or two copies of the allele should not mate.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a hereditary malformation of the ball-and-socket joint that connects a cat's thigh bone (femur) to its hip. A cat with hip dysplasia will have a misaligned and loose ball and socket, preventing the femoral head from moving smoothly. The femoral head and acetabulum will knock together, causing the acetabulum to become shallow and the femoral head to become worn and misshapen, resulting in joint looseness.

Although the condition is thought to be genetic, no specific cause of hip dysplasia has been identified. Cats with hip dysplasia are more likely to have affected offspring. This disorder is also known to be caused by body size.

Because of the weight on the joints, larger cats are more likely to develop hip dysplasia. Obesity is a major cause of feline hip dysplasia.

Maine coons with severe hip dysplasia should not be bred. However the majority of breeders use cats with a hip rating of mild hip dysplasia and that is up to each breeder to decide what they'll allow in breeding cats. A Maine coons gene pool is not extremely large and eliminating cats with a rating that is not severe may reduced the gene pool even more.

two cats with amazing hips can produce offspring that end up having hip dysplasia and vice versa meaning there is no guarantee but repeating hip x-rays throughout a cats life will help diagnose and eliminate from reproducing.

Viruses in cats

Feline Coronavirus (Fecv)

Feline coronavirus (fecv) is in the same family as COVID 19 in humans but it cannot be given to humans from cats. feline coronavirus is like a common cold with symptoms like coughing, sneezing and runny nose and the majority of cats recover from this virus without any issues. This virus is transmitted through the fecal oral route, infected cats shed the virus in their feces and transmit it to other cats who share the same litter box which is why it is more common in multi-cat households, catteries and shelters. most cats are transient and stop shedding the virus within a couple months, 13% of cats never stop shedding the virus and a small number of cats seem to be resilient and never become infected. pcr testing can detect the virus but only when the cat is shedding the virus meaning they would have to be repeatedly tested. Fecv is extremely common, 50% of single cat households and 80-90% of multi-cat environments become infected with this virus at some point of their life.

Feline Infectious Peritonitis

Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is the deadly mutated feline coronavirus (fecv). in 10% of cats fecv will mutate into FIP. FIP attacks the white blood cells and the thing that is supposed to help attack the virus will actually end up aiding in the spread of FIP throughout the body this is because the cats who get FIP have an immune defect or deficiency. FIP is always deadly unless owners are able to obtain the very expensive black market drug that is not FDA approved with that drug cats have a very good survival rate. cats that are stressed due to rehoming, have recently had surgery or have more than 1 infection at a time may be more susceptible to developing FIP as well as genetic factors.

There are 2 types of FIP:

  • Wet FIP- which refers to the accumulation of fluid in the body cavities leading to a swollen abdomen or chest cavity.

  • Dry FIP- involves severe inflammation in 1 or more organs including the eyes, brain, liver, intestine or other organs leading to a variety of clinical signs.

Diagnosis of FIP is hard because of the symptoms being common in other diseases. There is no simple tests for FIP, several tests can detect feline coronavirus anti-bodies but they can't detect which strain is involved and a positive result on a test only means the cat was exposed to the coronavirus but not necessarily a strain that causes FIP. FIP is not contagious and develops in individual cats when the virus mutates.

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