Maine Coon Cats: Health Problems Owners Must Know About

Updated on August 1, 2019
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Donna shares insider tips about your pets gained through exclusive interviews with industry experts.

What Does a Maine Coon Cat Look Like?

Even at the young age of six months, this Maine Coon cat is already a big, big kitty.
Even at the young age of six months, this Maine Coon cat is already a big, big kitty. | Source

Health Problems to Be Aware Of in Your Maine Coon

The Maine Coon cat is one of the oldest natural breeds in North America and generally regarded as a native of Maine. They are able to adapt to environments with harsh and very cold climates because of their long-haired, heavy and water-resistant coats.

As for their temperament, they are sociable creatures that prefer to stay close by their owner observing their activities. They are also playful and active, and get along well with children, dogs and other cats.

Although they are easy to manage, Maine Coon cats can pose some concern for their owners, particularly when it comes to their health. These cats are prone to some medical conditions that can be quite serious if prompt attention and treatment are not provided, including:

  • Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Polycystic Kidney Disease

Learn more about the common Maine Coon cats health problems, and get some tips on how to handle each disorder.

Hypertrophic Cardimyopathy (HCM)

Commonly termed as a "silent killer" because it is difficult to diagnose, this heart disease is usually present in Maine Coon cats, particularly in adult and male cats of this breed.

HCM occurs when the muscle walls of a cat's heart thickens, which causes the heart to pump less efficiently. This disorder can progress or worsen rapidly even without medication.

A complication of this heart disease can lead to congenital heart failure, a build-up of fluid around the heart and the lungs, and a blood clot that blocks the flow of blood to the hind legs, thus resulting in paralysis.

Although symptoms do not typically occur, these warning signs may be experienced:

  • Shallow breathing
  • Paralysis
  • Lethargy
  • Coughing
  • Severe weight loss

Cats that experience these symptoms should be given prompt medical attention. An echocardiogram is the only means of detecting and diagnosing HCM. If an HCM is proven to be present, beta-blockers, diuretics and ACE inhibitors may be prescribed as treatments.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia, which is another of the common Maine Coon cat health problems, is a genetic defect where the hip joint develops abnormally. This occurs when the hip joint does not fit well into the hip socket.

Eventually, the hip joint becomes damaged because of the constant knocking of the femur head against the socket. As the cat ages, this can lead to osteoarthritis, which is a degenerative joint disease.

This health condition can occur in cats of different ages, and the most common signs of hip dysplasia are stiffness when walking, reluctance to jump or run, and lameness. Although it is not fatal, it can be very painful to cats. In fact, hip dysplasia can be crippling when proper treatment and therapy are not given.

To prevent further damage to the hip joint, cats are put on a weight management diet. Extra weight can add pressure on the hips, thus worsening its condition. There are also certain exercises that a veterinarian may recommend as therapy such as walking on a leash, walking on a treadmill, and going up and down the stairs.

Proper massages can also help alleviate the pains, as well as keeping the cat warm since cold weather can induce arthritis. In addition, the veterinarian may also prescribe medications to treat this health condition such as NSAIDs, glucosamine and vitamin C.

Polycystic Kidney Disease

Polycystic Kidney Disease, or PKD, is a genetic disease in Maine Coon cats where small cysts in the kidneys develop.

The cysts are present at birth, and they multiply and grow in size as the cat ages.

As the cysts develop, they tend to replace normal kidney tissue. The kidneys increase in size, and this leads to a decline in the renal function. A complication of this illness is chronic renal failure.

Because this disorder progresses slowly, a cat suffering from it may not show symptoms. Normally, warning signs are evident when a cat is already an adult or about seven years of age.

Be alert for any of the following:

  • Lethargy
  • Frequent urination
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Increased thirst
  • Weight loss

To diagnose PKD, a genetic test and ultrasound may be recommended by a veterinarian. Although there are no means of slowing down and removing the cysts in the kidneys, therapy may be recommended such as medication and a prescribed diet.

An ideal diet for cats with PKD includes foods with low protein but less phosphorus content than normal cat food. Since a damaged kidney is not able to remove phosphorus from the blood, cats suffering from this disorder need to control their intake of this mineral.

Hormone therapy such as erythropoietin may also be advised. This particular hormone enables the bone marrow to produce red blood cells. Kidney failure in cats results in a decreased production of red blood cells, thus it is important for cats to have this hormone to normalize the levels of red blood cells.

Maine Coon cats are typically healthy cats, but they are susceptible to certain diseases that can be serious and even life-threatening. However, with prompt treatment, proper medication, and an appropriate diet, the discomfort brought about by these disorders can be alleviated. Monitoring your cat's activity and overall appearance in combination with regular visits to your veterinarian are the best ways to keep your cat health and happy for its lifetime.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

  • What is the normal respiration rate range for a five-month-old Maine Coon cat?

    It's probably a good idea to consult your vet to see if your pet's respiration rate is within normal limits.

© 2011 Donna Cosmato

Share Your Love for Maine Coon Cats

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    • profile image


      20 months ago

      I've got twin maincoon Timothy just passed today he suffered from colon cancer.

    • profile image

      John Doe 

      2 years ago

      If your vet says your cat is fine, I'd trust them. They have to have a doctoral, they must know something.

    • profile image

      Julie Gray 

      2 years ago

      My cat is about 6 years old and is such a sweetie I say my "cat" but it is my partners cat and he is in love with him as I am,

      he is having some issues about lethargy and he is not eating well. We took him to the vet and he said his blood work was good and wanted to hydrate him but I just am scarred they want money except he still doesn't seem like his old self. What do you think I SHOULD DO I love this baby and he isn't dehydrated. I checked his skin by pulling up around the shoulder and his skin snapped right back.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Can and are the above genetic issues with the Maine coon cats tested for?

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      My 13 yr. old male Maine coon went to the vet after he stopped eating. The vet said it was a problem with his pancreas and could clear it up but further tests showed bleeding around the heart so he had to be put down. What a great companion. Very loyal like a dog. He even watched over our two dogs. Very smart and a great friend. I will miss him.

    • profile image

      Michele Minicozzi 

      3 years ago

      I had a female Maine Coon, Shea, 3.5 y/o who died suddenly on Superbowl Sunday last year - I believe it was a case of undiagnosed HCM :( I was devastated because she was such a great girl and still so young, quirky and funny yet in hindsight I missed some small signs that probably could of saved her if I had known about the disease. My regular Vet had never even mentioned it to me during any visit, I was so mad and felt terribly guilty she died such an awful death. Augh - I hate remembering that day and ho wit could of been avoided! Now that I know what to look for and have adopted a new Maine Coon, Holly...please tell me at what age or how often along after the age of 3 should I have the Vet administer a Sonogram or ECG? -Michele

    • DonnaCosmato profile imageAUTHOR

      Donna Cosmato 

      8 years ago from USA

      Thanks Ricky! I'm glad you liked this article and found it to be helpful. Enjoy your weekend as well:)

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 

      8 years ago from West Virginia

      Voted up, useful, and awesome. This is a great article Donna. So much useful information that many will need to know. Quite impressive actually. A class "A" article for sure. I had never heard of these Coon cats before now. Great article and hope you have a great weekend.

    • DonnaCosmato profile imageAUTHOR

      Donna Cosmato 

      8 years ago from USA

      Thank you, thank you for the sweet comments, friend Eddy! It's always grand to hear from you, and I hope Rocky is adjusting well to his new home:)

    • Eiddwen profile image


      8 years ago from Wales

      A great hub Donna which I am sure would benefit many cat lovers who read.I'll link back to my FB page.

      An up up and away here;

      Take care;


    • DonnaCosmato profile imageAUTHOR

      Donna Cosmato 

      8 years ago from USA

      Thank you for your vote of confidence and continued support of my work, Deborah:)

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 

      8 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      such beautiful cats.. and I love the video.. great HUBS..

      i voted up and beautiful

    • DonnaCosmato profile imageAUTHOR

      Donna Cosmato 

      8 years ago from USA

      Hi, esmeowl12...they are awesome looking cats, aren't they? It's amazing how big they can get, and their facial expressions remind me of the cats from the musical "Cats" because they contain so much personality. Thank you for your feedback:)

    • Esmeowl12 profile image

      Cindy A Johnson 

      8 years ago from Sevierville, TN

      Main Coons are so beautiful. I've always loved them. Thanks for sharing this important info.


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