Happy Silly Cat

Feline Heart Failure: Causes Symptoms Treatment and Prognosis

As much as we love our feline companions, it can be a tough call understanding when they are in pain or feeling unwell. Because cats are masters of hiding their pain and illness, it may be challenging to notice when something is wrong.

One health issue that cat owners should be aware of is heart failure. In this informative article, we will explore the definition and types of heart failure in cats, its symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis.

By the end of this article, you will be well equipped with the knowledge to keep your furry friend healthy and happy.

Heart Failure in Cats – Definition and Types

Heart failure is a condition that occurs when the heart cannot maintain adequate blood circulation and oxygenation of vital organs. In cats, heart failure is also known as congestive heart failure (CHF).

There are two types of CHF: left-sided heart failure and right-sided heart failure. Left-sided heart failure is caused by weak or damaged cardiac muscle, leading to decreased blood flow and oxygen supply to the rest of the body.

On the other hand, Right-sided heart failure occurs when the blood circulation becomes constrained, and the blood backs up into the veins, leading to fluid accumulation in the abdomen or other body parts. This condition can also occur after prolonged lung disease.

Symptoms of Heart Failure in Cats

The symptoms of heart failure in cats may be challenging to notice because they can appear gradually. In the early stages of the disease, the cat may become less active, hide more, or avoid being petted.

Other symptoms of heart failure include:

– Appetite decrease

– Lethargy

– Breathing difficulty

– Cough

– Exaggerated breathing while resting

– Exercise intolerance

– Lay with chest on the ground

– Panting

If your cat is experiencing any of these symptoms, it is essential to seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.

Causes of Heart Failure in Cats

There are two primary causes of heart failure in cats: cardiomyopathy and valvular disease. Cardiomyopathy is a disease that affects the heart muscle, which causes the heart to become weak and unable to pump blood as efficiently.

This condition can be genetic, and Maine Coon, Ragdoll, and American Shorthair breeds are more prone to this disease. Valvular disease happens when the heart’s valves are not working correctly, leading to blood being pumped back into the heart, again placing it under stress.

Cardiomyopathy and valvular disease can both lead to CHF in cats.

Diagnosis of Heart Failure in Cats

If you suspect your cat has heart failure, the vet will run several tests to diagnose the condition. These tests can include blood tests, imaging (such as x-rays and echocardiograms), electrocardiograms, and blood pressure tests.

These tests can help identify any underlying causes that may exacerbate heart problems.

Treatment of Heart Failure in Cats

The primary treatment of heart failure in cats aims to stabilize the cat’s condition, reduce fluid build-up, improve the heart’s function, and prevent the condition from worsening. Your veterinarian may prescribe the following medications:

– Diuretics: These help to remove excess fluid by increasing urine production.

– Pimobendan: This medication is known to improve heart function. – ACE-inhibiters: These help to improve blood flow and decrease blood pressure.

– Anti-thrombotics: They help to prevent blood clots in cats with heart failure. – Antiarrhythmics: These help control the cat’s heart rate and rhythm.

Prognosis for Cats with Heart Failure

The prognosis for cats with heart failure often depends on how early it is detected and diagnosed. With proper treatment, diagnosis, and management, some cats may live several more years with the condition.

However, in severe cases, heart failure may lead to sudden death.


Heart failure can be a devastating diagnosis for a pet parent. However, early detection and treatment can make a significant difference and improve the cat’s quality of life.

As a cat owner, it is essential to pay attention to your cat’s behavior, watch out for symptoms of heart failure, and seek veterinary attention when you suspect your cat is in pain or feeling unwell. Remember, your feline companion relies on you for their well-being.

Show them love and care by taking them to the veterinarian for routine check-ups, maintaining a healthy diet, exercise, and keeping their living environment safe. By working together with your veterinarian, you can help your cat live a comfortable life, even with heart failure.


Causes of Heart Failure in Cats

The heart is a vital organ that pumps blood to the rest of the body, supplying oxygen and nutrients to vital organs. When a cat’s heart becomes damaged, its ability to pump blood becomes compromised, leading to heart failure.

There are several causes of heart failure in cats, including:


Cardiomyopathy is a type of heart disease that affects the heart muscle, resulting in it becoming diseased. This weakened heart muscle cannot pump enough blood to supply the body’s tissues and organs, making the cat prone to heart failure.

Cardiomyopathy is the most common cause of heart failure in cats, and it can be genetic or acquired. Genetics: Cats of certain breeds are prone to develop cardiomyopathy.

Maine Coon and Ragdoll cats are particularly vulnerable to the genetic form of the disease. Inherited heart disease can lead to heart failure in young cats under two years of age.

Acquired: Acquired cardiomyopathy is caused by other underlying diseases such as hypertension (high blood pressure), hyperthyroidism, and renal disease. These conditions put undue stress on the heart, and over time, the heart muscle becomes weakened, leading to heart failure.

Valvular Disease:

The heart has four valves that control blood flow through the heart chambers. Valvular disease results from heart valves not working correctly, leading to blood being pumped back into the heart and making it work much harder than it should.

Although rare in cats, valvular disease can cause heart failure when the valves cannot control the blood flow’s direction as they should.

Vascular Disease:

The blood vessels are the pipeline that provides oxygenated blood to different parts of the body.

Vascular disease affects the arteries and veins and can cause blood flow problems, such as blockages, leading to low blood pressure and a reduced oxygen supply. Over time, these problems can cause heart failure.

4) Diagnosing Heart Failure in Cats

Diagnosing heart failure in cats requires a series of tests and a physical examination by a veterinarian. Although cats are excellent at hiding their illnesses, some signs and symptoms may show that the cat is dealing with heart failure.

Some commonly used methods for diagnosing heart failure include:


X-rays, ultrasonography, and echocardiography are diagnostic imaging methods that can be used to assess the cat’s heart’s size, shape, and function. They help to determine if the heart is enlarged, if there is fluid buildup in the lungs or chest cavity, and if there is any leaky valve or tissue damage.

Blood Tests:

Certain blood tests can measure specific substances that indicate heart failure in a cat. Cardiac troponin tests measure the level of enzymes that can indicate heart damage or disease.

ProBNP blood tests measure the blood’s concentration of an enzyme called brain natriuretic peptide (BNP). This enzyme is secreted when the heart muscles are under stress, and higher levels in the blood can indicate heart failure.


Electrocardiography (ECG or EKG) records the electrical activity of the heart and helps determine the heart rhythm. An ECG can help identify abnormal rhythms that may signify heart disease or fluid accumulation in the lungs.

The test is non-invasive and requires applying a series of electrodes to the cat’s chest area.


Early detection of heart failure in cats is essential to prevent or manage the condition effectively. Genetic factors and various underlying diseases can predispose a cat to heart failure, and some of the symptoms that may warrant a veterinary examination include coughing, difficulty breathing, or increased lethargy.

Proper diagnosis and timely treatment can help to improve the cat’s quality of life and increase its longevity. With regular visits to the veterinarian and adherence to a heart-healthy lifestyle, pet owners can provide their feline companions with a long, healthy life.

5) Treatment for Heart Failure in Cats

Once a cat is diagnosed with heart failure, the primary treatment is to manage the condition’s symptoms and prevent it from worsening. This can be done through a combination of medications, fluid removal, and dietary changes.

The following are some common treatments for heart failure in cats:


Several medications can manage heart failure symptoms in cats. Diuretics are drugs that help remove excess fluid from the body, reducing the pressure on the heart and lungs.

Pimobendan is a medication that helps increase the heart’s contractility and improve its function. ACE-inhibitors can help improve blood flow and reduce blood pressure in cats with heart failure.

Antithrombotics prevent blood clots, which can be particularly dangerous in cats with heart disease. Antiarrhythmics are medications that help regulate the cat’s heart rhythm.

Fluid Removal:

In cases where there is excessive fluid buildup in the chest or abdomen, the vet may need to perform a procedure called thoracocentesis (draining fluid from the chest) or abdominalcentesis (draining fluid from the abdomen). These procedures help to reduce the pressure on the heart and lungs and improve the cat’s breathing.


Diet plays a critical role in managing heart failure in cats. The vet may recommend a low-salt diet to help reduce fluid buildup and pressure on the heart.

It is also essential to ensure that the cat is eating a balanced diet, including all the necessary nutrients needed for maintaining good health. It is vital to work with the veterinarian to come up with a diet plan that works for the cat’s nutritional needs.

6) Prognosis for Heart Failure in Cats

The prognosis for cats with heart failure is generally poor, and the condition can significantly impact the quality of life for the cat. Several factors can impact the cat’s prognosis, including the type of heart disease, the severity of the condition, and the presence of secondary conditions.

Factors Affecting Prognosis:

Heart Disease Type: The type of heart disease a cat has can affect its prognosis. Cats with valvular heart disease tend to have a better prognosis compared to those with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).

Heart Condition Severity: The severity of the heart condition is another factor that can impact the prognosis. Cats with mild to moderate heart failure may live for several months to a few years, while those with severe heart failure may have a much shorter life expectancy.

Secondary Conditions: The presence of other secondary conditions, such as kidney disease or diabetes, can impact the cat’s prognosis. These conditions can make it more challenging to manage heart failure, leading to a decline in the cat’s overall health.

Life Expectancy:

The average life expectancy of cats with heart failure varies, and several factors can affect it. In general, cats with heart failure may live anywhere from a few months to several years, depending on the severity of the condition and the type of heart disease.

With proper medication management, regular veterinary check-ups, and a heart-healthy lifestyle, cats with heart failure can improve their quality of life and potentially increase their lifespan.


Heart failure is a serious condition that can have a significant impact on a cat’s quality of life and survival rate. Proper diagnosis, management, and treatment can help improve the cat’s condition and increase its longevity.

It is essential to work closely with a veterinarian to ensure the cat receives the best possible care. By keeping the cat on a heart-healthy diet, administering medications, and monitoring for symptoms, pet owners can help their feline companions live as comfortably as possible.

7) Medications Used to Manage Heart Failure in Cats

Heart failure is a serious condition that requires medication management. Several drugs can effectively manage heart failure symptoms in cats.

These medications work in different ways, but their primary goal is to improve the cardiac function and reduce the progression of heart failure. The following are some common medications used to manage heart failure in cats:


Furosemide is a commonly used diuretic that helps to remove excess fluid from the body.

This medication works by preventing water reabsorption in the kidneys, leading to increased urination and fluid removal. Diuretics are essential in managing heart failure in cats, as they help reduce the pressure on the heart and lungs and improve breathing.


Pimobendan is a drug that acts as a positive inotrope, improving the heart’s contractility and blood pumping efficiency, making it an ideal drug for cats with cardiomyopathy. It can also help to reduce the pressure in the pulmonary veins and improve blood circulation throughout the body.


Benazepril is a common ACE-inhibitor used in managing heart failure in cats. These medications work by blocking the enzyme that causes blood vessels to narrow.

ACE-inhibitors can help reduce blood pressure and improve blood circulation in a cat with heart failure. These medications can also help reduce the workload on the heart, ultimately improving its function.


Antithrombotics are medications that help prevent blood clots from forming in the cat’s blood vessels. Many cats with heart failure are at risk for blood clots, which can lead to serious complications.

Clopidogrel is a commonly used antithrombotic that can help reduce the risk of blood clots in cats with heart disease. Antiarrhythmics:

Antiarrhythmics are medications used to regulate the cat’s heart rhythm.

These drugs can be useful in managing heart failure because they help ensure the heart is beating at a healthy rhythm, reducing the stress on the heart. Diltiazem is a commonly used antiarrhythmic drug that is often used in cats with heart failure.

It is important to note that medication management for heart failure in cats should only be prescribed under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian.

8) General Cost to Treat Heart Failure in Cats

Heart failure is a serious condition that can come with a significant financial burden. The cost of treating heart failure will depend on several factors, including the severity of the condition, geographic location, emergency care needs, hospital stay, testing, medication, or an appointment with a cardiologist.

Treatment Costs:

The initial cost of treating heart failure in cats may include emergency room visits, diagnostic testing such as blood work, imaging such as x-rays, ultrasound, and cardiac-specific tests, medications, and hospital stays. Treatment will vary based on the severity of the case and the specific requirements of the cat.

Variable Costs:

The cost of treating heart failure in cats can vary depending on the geographic location and access to specialized care. More severe cases of heart failure may require consultation and follow-ups with a cardiologist, which can increase the overall treatment cost.

The location of the veterinary practice will also play a role since fees can vary depending on the local cost of living and practice costs. Managing heart failure in cats can be costly, but timely intervention, a consistent follow-up plan, and prevention strategies

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