Recommended Maine Coon Breeder Tests
Even though you want your Maine Coon to grow very old our beloved breed can be prone to diseases. It is very important that if you buy a pedigreed kitten that you buy a kitten from a breeder that does health testing.
Most breeders will also exclude cats in their breeding plans that have had too many health problems while growing up like gum problems or respiratory problems or overall immune system problems.
Basically most breeders only use cats that are healthy have good character and have good looks. There are a lot of Maine Coons available for breeding and there is no reason not to exclude unhealthy Maine Coons for breeding.
So what testing should you expect of a Maine Coon Breeder? The tests are divided into two main sections. Those for the parents and those for the parents and kittens.
Breeding queens and sires:
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)
This heart disease is one of the most common in heart diseases with cats. It can occur with kittens as young as 3 months and as late as at the age of 10 years.
Basically there is no guarantee that your cat will not develop it but because it is a genetic disease its occurrence can be excluded by testing and mating with cats from lines where this disease has not occurred.
What is HCM?
It is a heart disease in which the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick at the height of the left side of the heart. The muscle becomes less elastic and the heart cannot pump the same amount of blood as normal with every heartbeat. The thickness of the heart muscle can even cause the leaking of valves and can cause a heart murmur.
HCM develops very slowly and it can take some time before your cat will show any symptoms.
Early symptoms are very vague but include;
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of weight
- Loss of endurance
- Increased heart rate
- Heart murmur
Some cats get paralysis in the hind legs due to blood clots. Many cats however do not show symptoms until it is too late and their heart stops.
HCM can be diagnosed by:
- An Ultrasound screening with Doppler and an electrocardiogram (echocardiography) can be used to make a diagnosis. The exam takes about 30 to 40 minutes. Your cat possibly will be shaved below the armpits and a jelly will be applied to get the best possible picture. Most cats will endure this exam and will be held by the owner(s) and the assistant on the special table. In some cases a cat will be sedated for the examination. But this will only be the case with cats that cannot be held still during the screening.
- Genetic testing
- MYBPC3 is a dna test available to rule out one of the genes that are responsible for causing HCM in cats. It is only available for Maine Coons and Ragdolls
Again there are no guarantees that your cat will or will never develop HCM but it is very important that breeders test their breeding cats.
Because HCM develops slowly breeders are advised to test their breeding cats regularly. Breeding males that sire regularly should be screened for HCM every year.
Breeding females should be screened before every litter. Retired males and females should also be retested at the age of 10.
What if your cat is diagnosed with HCM?
It all depends on the severity of the disease. You should consult a specialist about the right treatment of your cat. There are a lot of different medication to treat the symptoms of HCM. A lot of cats have a good life due to the medication.
Patellar Luxation (PL)
This means that the kneecap of your cat is dislocated from the groove of the femur. Normally if you stretch the legs of your cat the kneecaps stay in place. A Veterinarian can test the kneecaps by pushing the kneecaps. If it stays in place there is no luxation but if the kneecap can be pushed out of place there is a mild type of luxation. If the kneecap does not go back into position there is a grade 3 type of PL. If there is a severe form of PL (your cat will be limping) surgery will be advised.
It is advised to test breeding cats at the age of 1 and to exclude cats that have PL.
Hip Dysplasia (HD)
This means that the ball ligament of the hip does not fit into the socket of the hip. This can cause pain and the cat will not walk fluently. It all depends on the severity of the abnormality of the hip. Sometimes an operation will be necessary. It is believed that about 18 percent of the Maine Coon population has HD. Diagnosis can be made with x rays of the hips. The cat must be sedated to make good pictures of the hips.
Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA)
This is an inherited disease that affects kittens. Loss of neurons leads to muscle weakness and atrophy. At the age of 3-4 months an affected kitten will lose strength in the hind part of the body and will be unable to jump. Cats with SMA can live a long time and will not have pain. The hind will sway and they will be sensitive to touch on their back.
Carriers of the gene can be traced by testing the dna of you cat. Offspring of non-carriers cannot become carriers of the gene.
Breeding queens, sires and kittens:
Feline leukemia (FeLV)
Feline leukemia is a retrovirus that inserts its genetic code into your Maine Coons cells. It spreads very easily in catteries via nasal discharge, saliva (mutual grooming, shared feeding dishes, and biting), urine, feces, milk, or intrauterine transmission. FeLV can decrease your cat’s susceptibility to infections, is the most common cause of cancer, and can also cause blood disorders. As anyone that has had a cat with FeLV knows, infection is a very common occurrence. Most veterinarian offices can do the ELISA test for FeLV in office, which detects both stages of the virus.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
FIV is a retrovirus just like the Feline leukemia virus. And often times infection with these two viruses can be found together. It is mostly spread via bites wounds. But it can also be transmitted from a mother to its kittens during labor or nursing. FIV primarily affects a cat’s immune system. And the cat will usually succumb to a secondary infection as a result. Testing for this can also be done in the vet’s office with same day results. This is an overly sensitive screening test that can give false positives. So in the case of a positive, another more specific test needs to be done.
Ova and Parasites (O&P)
In multiple cat environments parasites are especially common. So it is important that all household cats in the cattery be regularly screened for parasites. This is a simple test that only requires a stool sample be handed to the vet for analysis. This test should also be a part of the kitten’s wellness exams prior to adoption. Many breeders will also treat entire litters for the most common parasites such as round and tape worms prior to adoption.
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