L-carnitine is an important nutrient that acts as a transport for fatty acids, essential for the cellular production of energy. Deficiency of this nutrient can cause a variety of health problems for a cat; most significantly, the association with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a disease of the heart. The heart and skeletal muscles do not synthesize the carnitine nutrient on their own, requiring it to be transported there for use. Therefore, a deficiency of carnitine in the body will have a negative effect on the heart and skeletal muscles. While carnitine supplements are not always successful at reversing the effects of this deficiency, they have proven to be the most successful course of treatment.
Symptoms and Types
Signs of this deficiency may include:
- Muscle pain
- Exercise intolerance
- Enlarged heart (dilated cardiomyopathy)
- Heart muscle failure
L-carnitine is important for muscle tissue to receive energy and function normally. A deficiency in this nutrient, therefore, can create a negative impact throughout the cat's body.
This disease is still being studied, but there is some evidence that suggests that certain breeds may be at increased risk of acquiring this disorder.
In order to diagnose this deficiency, heart (endomyocardial) muscle biopsies must be performed in order to measure carnitine levels.
Your cat's size and weight will determine the proper dosage of L-carnitine supplements. Keep in mind that many cats will not show an improvement in health. In addition, some cats may even show an increase in diarrhea as the carnitine dosage in their diet is increased. An appropriately prescribed diet, with plenty of fluids, will be essential for preventing complications during this period.
Living and Management
Once carnitine treatment has begun, it is recommended that you continue regular veterinary check-ups with your cat. Your doctor will perform an echocardiogram (or EKG) every three to six months to ensure that treatment has been effective.
There are no known methods of prevention, other than maintaining a healthy diet for your cat.