Feline Congestive Heart Failure

"Feline congestive heart failure is a condition where the heart is not pumping enough blood to the body. It is caused by either an inherited heart defect or from disease. Symptoms include shortness of breath and lethargy. Treatment options involve medication and dietary change."

Feline heart congestive failure is a condition in which the heart is unable to pump normal quantities of blood to the tissues of the body. It is associated with the accumulation of fluid in the lungs (edema), the chest cavity (pleural effusion), and/or the abdominal cavity (ascites). The fluid accumulation can lead to difficulty breathing.

There are many causes of heart failure in cats, including birth (congenital) defects, degeneration of the heart valves, heartworm, diseases of the pericardium (the lining around the heart), and heart muscle disease (cardiomyopathy). Cardiomyopathy is the most common.

Feline Congestive Heart Failure Symptoms

Symptoms of feline heart failure include shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, coughing, fatigue, lack of appetite, weight loss, and overall weakness. Fainting may occur.

There are other symptoms your vet will be able to pick up on an examination, such as a weak, rapid, and/or irregular heartbeat and high blood pressure.

Feline Congestive Heart Failure Diagnosis

Your vet will perform a complete physical examination, including listening to your cat's heart with a stethoscope. If heart problems are suspected, your vet will also take your cat's blood pressure. Additional tests may be ordered, including an x-ray, an electrocardiogram (EKG), and an ultrasound examination of the heart (echocardiogram).

Feline Heart Problems Treatment

Treatment for feline congestive heart failure depends on the underlying cause. Initial treatment may include hospitalization with oxygen therapy.

Medications are available to regulate the heart rate and to influence the force and speed of heart muscle contraction, if necessary.

Treatment may include a diuretic ("water pill") to help relieve fluid build-up. A diuretic like Lasix causes the kidneys to excrete more water and sodium than normal.

Pleural effusion (fluid around the lungs) may require thoracocentesis, which is the insertion or a small needle in order to drain some of the fluid. This will improve breathing and make your cat more comfortable. This is also preferable in some cases to using large amounts of diuretic, which can cause electrolyte imbalances.

Nitroglycerine can be prescribed in the form of a paste. This is applied to the ear, the abdomen, or any relatively hairless area.

Low sodium diets are also prescribed to prevent water retention and to keep blood pressure down. You can get a low sodium prescription diet from your vet.

You might also might to consider adding a natural remedy to your cat's diet such as hawthorn. Products such as PetAlive Heart & Circulation Tonic contain Hawthorn and are specifically made for the natural treatment and prevention of heart disease and to improve Circulation in cats. Be sure to discuss this and other options with your veterinarian. While it is designed to be safe when combined with prescription medications, as with anything you give your cat, check with your veterinarian first.


Pet Place

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Management of Feline Heart Failure
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Feline Heart Failure: Current Concepts/Strengths and Weaknesses
Petrie, Jean-Paul DVM


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