Maine Coons are a relatively healthy and hardy breed, but there are some genetic predispositions to certain diseases. One of the unique health issues that a Maine Coon cat may face is hip dysplasia.
Hip dysplasia is usually common in large breeds of dogs and it is thought that it may have developed because of the size of the breed. The males are more at risk for hip dysplasia than the females are because they are of larger size and put more stress on the ligaments and muscles. This disease can cause arthritis and in rare cases paralysis.
While hip dysplasia can be painful, it is not life threatening like HCM (feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy). This is one of the most common forms of heart disease in cats and is often found in the Maine Coon cat breed, typically striking middle aged or older cats.
The gene that is thought to cause this condition has been isolated, although not every cat that carries the gene (a recent study suggests that 1/3 of the cats tested carried the gene) will contract the disease. This disease has a high fatality rate.
Spinal Muscular Atrophy
SMA or spinal muscular atrophy is another genetic disease that is well-documented in Maine Coons. Typically the symptoms of SMA present relatively early on in life (usually by 3-4 months of age). The disease is not fatal but can cause weakened muscle development.
There are other diseases that are found in Maine Coons like PKD that are relevant to the Persian breeds but not unique to Maine Coon cats. A recent study of 187 Maine Coon cats found that 7 had PKD.
Whether your Maine Coon is full bred or has a mixed heritage they can either be carriers of the genes that cause these diseases or they can display the disease. There are many tests that are available for the most worrisome genetic code and while knowing that the gene is present does not mean that the disease will manifest. It is always best to know so that preventive steps can be taken.
Unlike other breeds that suffer from a full array of deadly disease potential, the Maine Coon is a relatively healthy breed. Insuring that your cat comes from a reputable breeder will greatly reduce the risk of genetic anomalies.