Brief overview of Maine Coon diseases

When talking about purebred cats, it is essential to talk about their health and the diseases that can affect them. The breeder's mission is to perpetuate the breed and respect its history, so it is necessary to be fully aware of the latter and of the hereditary diseases which are a scourge for the survival of the lines. Many of them are of genetic origin and the work of the breeder is very important at this level, it is essential to know and understand their cycle. Others are avoided by the vaccination program.

Genetic and other diseases:

For genetic diseases, our cats are all tested and fit to be part of our breeding program. Here is a description of each of the genetic diseases that are most prevalent in Maine Coons and the diseases for which they are tested and vaccinated.

This genetic disease is a disease of the heart which is characterized by an increase in volume of the latter due to a thickening of the heart muscle in the ventricle of the left part of the organ. This therefore prevents the normal circulation of blood.
Knowing this, there are serious and irreversible consequences in the affected animal which leads it to develop symptoms such as fatigue, difficulty in exertion, syncope (loss of consciousness), an accumulation of fluid in different parts of the body, or blood clots that start in the heart and travel to the kidneys, brain or limbs.
This disease is detected using two mediums essential in veterinary medicine, DNA sampling and cardiac ultrasound which must be done at least every two years (according to the recommendation of our veterinarian). tests since this disease has a genetic connotation and constitution. All our cats have of course passed their DNA tests and they will soon have their first ultrasound.

We mention this anomaly in the bone structure since many breeders do not test for this problem. The Maine Coon being a large cat with sometimes fast and sometimes slow growth is prone to this disease. It is characterized by abnormal development of the hip and causes damage in animals such as degenerative osteoarthritis and weakness of the hind limbs. It is necessary to avoid reproducing subjects which are affected by it as in canines.

Then there will be problems in the lines as is the case with many breeds of dogs. It is therefore essential that the breeder does everything possible not to replicate serious problems within the breeds. It is then necessary to take an x-ray of the hips before reproduction.

However, theories suggest that dysplasia is transmitted recessively and polygenically. This means that two cats without the disease can father kittens that will be affected and conversely, two sick cats can father kittens that will not. But this is still only a hypothesis. Any suspicion that an animal may be affected should be carefully considered. Our cats will have this x-ray when they are old enough. By the same token, we remain in contact with the breeders of our cats to obtain any relevant information on the subject.

This terrible name of disease, it is better not to have to deal with it and for that it is essential to make a DNA test of any breeding to avoid contaminating the lines.
Basically, it refers to the necrosis of the neurons in the spinal cord that are used to activate the skeletal muscles of the trunk and limbs. In short, an inherited neuromuscular disease.
We can therefore imagine that this loss of neurons leads to weakness and muscle atrophy which is revealed during the 3rd to 4th month of the kitten's life.
Affected cats develop an abnormal gait with hindquarters swaying and standing with hocks touching, difficulty walking and jumping. Subsequently, during the following months and depending on the severity of the case, other signs appear such as severe weakness of the hindquarters and a marked reduction in muscle mass. Cats affected by this disease do not suffer from pain but rather from the handicap and therefore from the mobile restriction that this generates, they can live like this for many years.

Pyruvate kinase is an enzyme fundamental for the production of energy in red blood cells. It breaks down sugar and allows its absorption. In the case of a deficiency, we talk about a lack or a significant reduction of this enzyme which leads to the destruction of red blood cells resulting in anemia. Anemia is defined as a decrease in the blood's ability to transport oxygen to cells for energy production. Other symptoms of this disease are heart murmurs, exertion intolerance, weakness and enlarged spleen (splenomegaly).

This pathology affects a small percentage of Maine Coons, around 1%. It is a disease that is most prevalent in Persians and exotic shorthair cats.

Our cats' DNA is tested for this kidney function condition even though they are not prone to be infected with this genetic defect. In addition, cysts are produced by the cat's kidneys and have been present since birth. They grow larger and fill with fluid as the animal grows, causing irreparable deterioration of kidney function, which manifests itself between the ages of 3 and 10 years. This growth of cysts causes damage to the kidneys and resulting in kidney failure. These cysts can be detected with ultrasound at around 8 to 10 months of age.
The course of the disease and the problematic of it varies from feline to feline.

This disease is known in cats and is caused by a retrovirus (a kind of RNA virus). It is a fragile virus that does not last very long in the environment. It is found in saliva where it is best spread via bites or shared water bowls, for example.

The symptoms remain varied and affect several physiological spheres in cats such as the digestive or hepatic system, reproductive disorders, cancer ... Felines with weakened immune systems can develop many secondary infections because of their vulnerability. Of course, it is possible to have the cat tested to find out if it is infected, there are some screening tests so the ELISA and PCR test. If the animal is positive, it must be removed at all costs from any breeding program
All of our cats are tested for this virus and are free from it.

This is also a retrovirus, it is the cause of significant mortality in the feline population. The virus in question is spread by blood or saliva since it is present there. However, outside of the host's body, it does not survive. It is usually spread through the bite.

A cat that is infected can live for a long time without showing any sign of infection while still being a source of contamination for its fellows. Over time, the virus intervenes in the functions of the immune system by deteriorating it in various ways, opening the door to chronic health problems and infections.

There is one way to check for the presence of this virus and that is to do a blood test. All cats that are introduced to a breeding program should be tested and infected cats should be discarded from breeding.
Of course our cats are all tested and negative.


The importance of DNA testing

The challenge is to obtain the most complete analysis possible on the diseases that can be carried by the cats that will be part of a breeding program in order to make the lines thrive. These tests make it possible to detect diseases present within a breed so that they can be eliminated and not reproduced on the offspring. Therefore, the test reveals three possibilities and we briefly explain them to you.

1st case: The cat is healthy, we can then speak of a normal homozygous result which indicates that the animal carries normal genes. He is not a carrier of the disease and therefore cannot pass it on to his offspring.

2nd case: The cat is a healthy carrier, which means that it has a normal gene and a mutated gene. It is said that he is then heterozygous, he will not develop the disease but he is a healthy carrier. In this case, he will pass this mutated gene to 50% of his offspring.

3rd case: The cat is said to be mutated homozygous and it will have two mutated genes. He is affected by the disease and will pass it on to all his offspring.

However, the breeder must take these tests into consideration and work accordingly to curb the development of these diseases within the lines. If he includes healthy carrier cats in his breeding program, he makes sure to breed him with a disease-free animal.