Maine Coons are famous for being the biggest domestic cat breed in the world, and exceptionally affectionate felines. But, what happens when these hardy cats are sick?
Keep reading to discover the Maine Coon health issues and problems these large cats have genetic predispositions to, plus the treatment options recommended.
Maine Coons are well known for being a very hardy cat breed. They are predisposed to certain Maine Coon health issues including hip dysplasia, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (heart disease), spinal muscular atrophy, stomatitis, periodontal disease, polycystic kidney disease (PKD), obesity, Maine Coon patella luxation, and Maine Coon renal disease.
Before buying one of these impressive large cats owners should make sure they know the most common Maine Coon health issues that these cats might develop.
Keep reading to learn more about the life-threatening diseases in Maine Coon cats and kittens.
7 Common Maine Coon Health Issues And Problems
The Maine Coon cat is one of the oldest natural cat breeds in America, with a mysterious lineage that has intrigued researchers for decades.
Often referred to as the American Longhair, their very long and dense fur is renowned for enabling them to survive even the harshest New England Winters.
They have attained a reputation for being a very hardy cat breed, with a gentle nature, making them ideally suited to families with young children.
Our feline friends have also been scientifically proven to have a very calming influence that is beneficial for an owner’s health.
It probably comes as no surprise therefore that the Maine Coon cat breed has become increasingly popular to own, particularly in the United States!
Despite this glowing reference, the Maine Coon cat breed is not genetically perfect and does experience health concerns that will need veterinary help to overcome.
Below are the key Maine Coon health issues that this big cat breed is predisposed to developing during their Maine Coon lifespan:
|Common to large cat breeds. Causes Arthritis
and may lead to paralysis
|Common to large cat breeds. Causes Arthritis
and may lead to paralysis
|Hereditary genetic diseases, identified by
increasing instability and posture
|Painful inflammation of cats’ mouth and gums
|A hereditary genetic disease whereby ulcers
form in cats’ kidneys
|Common cardiac disease associated with
cats. Also known as feline hypertrophic
|Overweight Maine Coon cats
Keep reading to learn more about these general health concerns and how you can help your feline. Early diagnosis is vitally important to ensure proper care is given to your cat ASAP.
1. Maine Coon Hip Dysplasia
Hip dysplasia occurs when the cat’s hip joints fail to develop normally, resulting in ball and socket dislocation.
The disease is characterized by gradual deterioration and ultimate loss of hip joint functions, and whilst it may be evident from 4 months old, it is more commonly associated with older cats.
Although generally rare in the cat world, this disease is often found in large cat breeds such as the Maine Coon, particularly if the cat is purebred.
It affects more female Maine Coons than males and is known to cause arthritis. Learn the 9 Signs Of Maine Coon Arthritis, in this article.
Studies suggest Maine Coon hip dysplasia health problems affect 18% of the Maine Coon population (source 1).
It is important that breeders screen their breeding cats for hip dysplasia, even if their cats show no outward signs of this disease.
This is because hip dysplasia is a hereditary disease, passed down the generations when both breeding parents pass the affected gene onto their offspring.
Although this disease is not considered life-threatening, it is vital that owners know the warning signs to watch out for, since severe cases of hip dysplasia can lead to paralysis.
As with many cat health problems, the earlier you can commence treatment, the better the outcome (source 1).
Hip Dysplasia Signs And Symptoms
Below are the early signs and symptoms of cat hip dysplasia to watch out for. Please keep in mind these health concerns are less easy to spot:
- Joint laxity or looseness
- Hip joint pain
An affected cat may also display these symptoms:
- Reluctant to jump, run or climb
- Less physically active
- Grating sounds when the cat moves
- Reduced thigh muscle mass
- Shoulders muscles become notably bigger since cat increases the amount of weight placed on their shoulders, in an attempt to avoid pain.
- Cat finds it difficult to get up
- Hind-limb lameness is either intermittent or persistent. More noticeable after a Maine Coon has exercised.
- Maine Coons hind limbs sit too closely together
- Swaying gait
- Cats’ hip joint range of motion decreases
Read our complete guide to Maine Coon Hip Dysplasia, here.
2. Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
Feline Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) occurs when there is a thickening of the muscular walls surrounding a cat’s heart, which negatively affects the heart’s efficiency levels.
It is not known what causes Maine Coon health issues like this to occur, however, researchers do suspect a genetic component is involved.
This theory is based on the fact that the disease tends to only affect certain cat breeds where certain heart gene mutations are present.
According to Cornell University, HCM is one of the most commonly diagnosed cardiac diseases in cats (source 1).
The prognosis for this particular disease varies significantly, though it is thought that certain treatments can improve the cat’s overall quality of life considerably.
One of the difficulties in identifying hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is that many cats with this condition show no signs of even being sick.
A lack of symptoms doesn’t mean you can ignore this disease though since HCM can cause sudden death in cats.
A Maine Coon suffering from HCM is likely to have the following health conditions:
- Blood clots in the heart
- Acute hind limb pain or paralysis
- Rapid heartbeat
- Arrhythmias (heart beats irregularly, too slowly, or too rapidly
- Weak pulse
In cases where fluid has accumulated in and around a cat’s lungs, the following symptoms are often visible.
These factors may indicate your Coon has congestive heart failure:
- Open-mouthed breathing
- Rapid breathing
- Labored breathing
If you notice any of these conditions, take your Maine Coon to the vet immediately, to rule out this life-threatening disease.
Here are 8 Maine Coon genetic testing options that are available to you, which may act as an early detection of any inherited condition in your pet’s unique medical needs.
3. Spinal Muscular Atrophy
Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) is a hereditary genetic disease that may shorten the lifespan of your Maine Coon kitten.
The disease is not thought to be fatal or painful but is thought to cause weakened muscle development.
It occurs when there is a loss of motor neurons in a cat’s lower spinal cord and muscle deterioration in its hindlimbs.
SMA is characterized by a cat’s progressive instability, unsteady gait, and posture abnormalities.
Maine Coon kittens with SMA will lead normal, happy lives, as long as they are kept indoors since their mental functions remain completely normal.
Owners should not let kittens or cats with this condition outside though, since they require a higher level of care than cats unaffected by SMA.
When purchasing an expensive Maine Coon kitten, ask your cat breeder for evidence that their breeding cats are free of this genetic defect.
Proof can be in the form of a DNA test, identifying whether the genetic defect is present in the breeding cats, or not.
If a breeder has not screened their breeding cats to check whether their cats are affected, or simply carriers of this condition, it is recommended that you do not continue the purchasing process.
Although this might appear a somewhat extreme reaction, you only want to purchase a pedigree cat from breeders that value their cat’s health and wellbeing.
SMA Signs And Symptoms
If your Maine Coon kitten has spinal muscular atrophy, symptoms will show as early as 3-4 months of age.
By 5-6 months of age, a kitten with this condition will find it difficult to jump onto furniture and may appear somewhat clumsy when jumping down from higher surfaces.
This is because the kitten may now be too weak in their pelvic limbs to easily jump up and down.
Kittens suffering from spinal muscular atrophy will lose muscle mass in their hindquarters.
Maine Coons with spinal muscular atrophy present the following symptoms:
- The rear end of the kitten sways as they walk
- A kitten’s posture will appear abnormal
- The kitten will struggle to jump
- Progressive muscular instability and weakness (source 1)
- Fine muscular tremors and fasciculations
One of the common Maine Coon health issues that this cat breed is prone to developing, is feline stomatitis.
It can affect both male and female Maine Coon cats and is characterized by painful mouth ulcers and inflammation of the cat’s gums and mouth.
If you notice your cat has stopped eating, ask your veterinary professional to assess them immediately for signs of stomatitis.
This is important since cats with this condition are unable to eat due to their inflamed gums and mouth making the process too painful.
Signs And Symptoms
Owners should keep watch for the following signs and symptoms of feline stomatitis since this condition takes some time to treat:
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Bad breath
- Pawing at the face or mouth
- Dropping food
- Messy coat of fur
- Yelping when they eat food
5. Periodontal Disease
Periodontal disease is an extremely common health condition, that affects the cat’s teeth and mouth.
It is also known as ‘gum disease’ and is made up of three stages:
Disease symptoms must not be overlooked, since periodontal disease may lead to kidney and heart valve conditions, the diseased oral tissues let oral bacteria through into a Maine Coon cat’s bloodstream.
The disease is characterized by inflammation of the tissue around a cat’s teeth, otherwise known as the periodontium.
The condition is easily avoided, provided owners pay particular attention to their feline’s oral hygiene.
In my view, prevention is always better than a cure. Therefore, in order to prevent your Maine Coon from developing periodontal disease, the best thing you can do is brush your cat’s teeth on a regular basis.
For more information on how to avoid Maine Coon health issues relating to cat teeth occurring, take a look at my article: Interesting Maine Coon Teeth Facts.
Stages of Periodontal Disease
There are three key stages of periodontal disease:
When a cat eats, food residue often becomes trapped in between its gums, and teeth.
This residue then interacts with the bacteria naturally living within a cat’s mouth, and the process of rotting begins.
As the food rots, an offensive odor is released.
Halitosis is characterized by smelly breath. This stage of periodontal disease is considered reversible, and must not be ignored.
Thus, if your cat’s breath becomes pungent, it is important that owners quickly intervene to ensure halitosis does not develop into periodontitis.
Gingivitis occurs when there is a build-up of plaque (a sticky bacteria) on the surface of a cat’s teeth.
The cat’s immune system will naturally try to remove this plaque, by releasing toxins to fight it. When this happens Maine Coons gums become inflamed.
Gingivitis is a reversible disease, thought to affect 80% of cats that are 3+ years of age.
If ignored, however, the condition will develop into periodontitis, which is irreversible. In cases such as this, Maine Coon tooth loss is likely.
If symptoms present themselves, owners should ask a professional to clean their cat’s teeth immediately.
Then, owners need to implement a strict home care routine, to ensure their cats have good oral hygiene.
The final stage of periodontal disease is periodontitis.
It occurs when a cat’s gingivitis is not treated immediately and is characterized by periodontal ligament damage, receding gums, and bone loss.
Although this condition is not reversible, owners should ask a veterinary professional to assess their cat’s condition, and mechanically remove the tartar that has built up on their cat’s teeth.
Due to the irreversible nature of this condition, owners can only limit further damage. Ongoing care is important to ensure these Maine Coon health issues do not impact a cat’s well-being.
6. Polycystic Kidney Disease
Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is a hereditary condition whereby cats are born with cysts growing on their kidneys.
During the course of a Maine Coons lifespan these cysts will increase in size, at varying rates.
Most cysts grow slowly and are not usually evident until a Maine Coon reaches seven years old.
If any of these pockets of fluid grow too large though, they may impact the cat’s kidney functions, resulting in kidney failure (source 1).
Polycystic kidney disease is caused by an autosomal dominant gene abnormality. Cats only need one parent to be infected with the defective gene, to inherit PKD.
In fact, without DNA testing it may not even be evident that a breeding cat is carrying the defective gene at all, since no signs or symptoms may be visible.
Symptoms of PKD
There are a number of symptoms to watch out for, which may indicate that your Maine Coon is suffering from polycystic kidney disease.
- Weight loss
- Increased thirst
- Loss of appetite
- Frequent urination
If you are worried that your Maine Coon has PKD, ask your veterinary professional to genetically test your cat for PKD. The vet may also wish to carry out an ultrasound on your cat.
Maine Coons are one of the largest domesticated cat breeds in the world, with the potential to reach a staggering 40 inches in length!
They are often referred to as ‘gentle giants’ due to their large physical frame and gentle nature, so don’t be surprised when your male Maine Coon kitten reaches up to 16 inches (40cm) in height and weighs an impressive 15-25 lbs (6.8-11.3 kg).
Sadly, one of the common downsides to their large physical frame is that owners do not understand that this cat breed has a slower growth rate than normal cats.
They are unaware that Maine Coon cats reach their full physical size between 3-4 years of age, rather than at 2 years old like other cat breeds.
Owners not aware of these facts will often start overfeeding their cat, wondering why their cat hasn’t reached the average Maine Coon sizes listed across the internet.
Unfortunately, overfeeding is a recipe for disaster because Maine Coons are prone to obesity, which inadvertently leads to many additional Maine Coon health issues, such as arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes.
Obesity is also thought to reduce your Maine Coons lifespan, by up to two years.
In conclusion, we can see that there are several key Maine Coon health issues to watch out for.
Whilst some diseases might not be life-threatening to your treasured Maine Coon, it is important that owners still treat all conditions seriously.
This is particularly true since minor illnesses that are left untreated often act as catalysts for other more serious illnesses to develop.
Below are some other Maine Coon health problems, that you might wish to learn more about: