Saddle thrombus is one of the most appalling conditions a cat lover will face - it is extremely unexpected, very distressing, and rarely ends up well. I've had many comments from pet parents about their harrowing experiences of saddle thrombus.
In particular, Linda commented twice on my post on saddle thrombus in cats about her cat Little Bit - the first about Little Bit and the onset of the saddle thrombosis and the second, the sad passing of Little Bit. I'm so sad for Linda's loss and I really appreciate her sharing her story at such a difficult time so others might find some solace.
In Linda's second comment, she had a question about the typical symptoms of heart disease in cats - how could she have known about her cat's heart condition before the saddle thrombus occurred? Linda mirrors the emotions of many of the people whose cats have died as a result of a saddle thrombus - what could they have done to prevent such an awful occurence?
A veterinarian friend of ours answered the question in the comments but I thought it worth highlighting here for all to see.
I am so sorry to hear about your cat Litle Bit. I just lost a cat myself and the emptiness that is there afterwards is always unbearable.
I am writing here to answer your questions about HCM (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy) and to let you know that the presentation that you experienced is extremely common.
Unfortunately, cats rarely show signs of heart disease, like coughing or exercise intolerance. HCM can be picked up on auscultation of the heart (although there must be an arrythmia or tachycardia to give you a hint) and by ultrasound. However, 2 year old cats are not routinely ultrasounded unless they are Maine Coon cats which are predisposed to the disease.
With regard to the disease, it only becomes evident clinically when clots that have been sitting in the heart chambers are showered throughout the animals body - ending up in the aorta and sometimes the lungs.
If it gives you any consolation, even if Little Bit had been diagnosed previously, the condition is very hard to treat medically and regardless of the heart medications used, is progressive. If she had survived this episode, within weeks to months she would have been suffering from another one, which no one would wish for their best friend.
I hope this helps a little...
Sincerely, Dr. Heather Carleton
[Note that auscultation means the act of listening for sounds in the body - in this case, noises of the heart]
So sadly, it appears that little can be done to prevent this condition except take your cat for regular check ups.
For more information, check out my post on hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.