Congestive Heart Failure in Cats

Congestive Heart Failure in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost
Congestive Heart Failure in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What is Congestive Heart Failure?

Congestive heart failure in cats is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical treatment. Early detection may significantly increase the chance of survival. If a cat is displaying possible symptoms, a prompt veterinary consultation is warranted.

Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a condition that occurs when insufficient blood is circulated throughout the body, causing fluid to back up into the lungs. Failure can occur in either the right or left side of the heart, or in both sides. It is commonly caused by a thickening of the heart walls, also known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

Youtube Play

Congestive Heart Failure Average Cost

From 474 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,800

Symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure in Cats

Symptoms may develop slowly, making them easy to miss unless owners are vigilant. Affected cats may display one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Weakness/lethargy
  • Increased heart rate
  • Decreased appetite
  • Hind limb paralysis
  • Unusual lung sounds
  • Pale or blue-tinted mucous membranes
  • Heart murmur
  • Enlarged liver
  • Abdominal distension 
  • Collapse
  • Sudden death
arrow-up-icon

Top

Causes of Congestive Heart Failure in Cats

Congestive heart failure can affect cats of any age, breed, or gender. It occurs more often in cats that are middle-aged or older. There is also evidence that the Maine Coon breed may have a genetic predisposition. Common causes of CHF include:

  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy 
  • Thyroid disorder
  • High blood pressure
  • Pericardial effusion (fluid surrounding the heart)
  • Anemia
  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Heart defects
  • Narrowing of aortic artery
  • Heartworm disease
  • Tumors
  • Pregnancy
  • Birth defects 
arrow-up-icon

Top

Diagnosis of Congestive Heart Failure in Cats

The treating veterinarian will review the cat's full medical history. Owners should be prepared to discuss details regarding the onset and severity of symptoms and share any theories regarding any other possible causes. Since the condition is sometimes hereditary, any information that can be provided regarding the cat’s family line will also be helpful. 

A physical exam will be performed and standard lab tests will be ordered. These include a complete blood count (CBC), thyroid test, electrolyte panel, biochemical panel, urinalysis and heartworm test. Cats may also be tested for feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and feline leukemia (FeLV). Using a stethoscope, the vet will be able to note sounds of congestion which would indicate the presence of fluid in the lungs. Blood pressure will be measured and visual diagnosis may be made using chest X-rays, electrocardiogram (ECG) and/or echocardiogram.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Treatment of Congestive Heart Failure in Cats

Congestive heart failure caused by hyperthyroidism may be reversed once the thyroid condition has been successfully treated. In other cases, the treatment plan will be based on the severity of symptoms and the underlying cause of the condition:

Hospitalization

If symptoms are severe, particularly if the cat is having difficulty breathing or has extremely low blood pressure, hospitalization may be required. Oxygen therapy may be administered when there is fluid surrounding the heart or lungs, and the fluid may need to be drained. This will help to ease pressure on the heart, makes breathing easier. When fluid build-up has been removed, the heart is able to pump blood more efficiently. If fluid is present in the chest or abdomen, it may be removed using a technique called tapping.

Surgical Treatment

Surgery may be recommended to treat cases of congestive heart failure that are caused by a birth defect or a congenital or acquired heart valve disease. This treatment option is often expensive and requires a surgical specialist. 

Symptom Management

In most cases, congestive heart failure it is not curable. Prescription medications can be used to control symptoms and improve the overall quality of life. Diuretics help to reduce fluid build-up, and vasodilators or ACE inhibitors ease the flow of blood through the body by dilating the blood vessels. Positive inotropes cause the heart to beat more forcefully, which increases the amount of blood that is pumped through the body. Prescription medications will likely need to be used for the remainder of the cat’s life.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Worried about the cost of Congestive Heart Failure treatment?

Pet Insurance covers the cost of many common pet health conditions. Prepare for the unexpected by getting a quote from top pet insurance providers.

Recovery of Congestive Heart Failure in Cats

Cats that have been diagnosed with congestive heart failure will need frequent follow-up visits. During the appointments, it is likely that blood tests, radiographs, and echocardiograms will be performed in order to monitor the cat's heart health. It is important to attend all follow-up appointments as medication may need to be adjusted periodically.

A low-sodium diet that is balanced and highly nutritious will likely be recommended. There are many commercially-available cat foods that meet this requirement. Diet is very important to successful recovery, and no changes should be made without first checking with the veterinarian. 

In some cases, the vet will recommend a moderate exercise plan intended to strengthen the heart while keeping blood pressure at a controlled rate. If the vet has not specifically recommended exercise then the cat should be kept calm and activity should be limited. When cats are unwilling to comply, owners may need to take preventative measures. Periodic cage rest may be necessary and it may be helpful to set up barriers to limit space available for running and jumping.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Congestive Heart Failure Average Cost

From 474 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,800

arrow-up-icon

Top

Congestive Heart Failure Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

dog-name-icon

Kulio

dog-breed-icon

Cheetoh

dog-age-icon

8 Years

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Chf, Not Eating

My cat was having trouble breathing and wasn’t moving much. I took him into the Vet and he was diagnosed with CHF and they removed 200 ml of pink fluid from his chest by tapping and gave him oxygen. He was sent home later that day, with several meds, including a diuretic and heart meds. The thing is he ate a little when he got home but since then he does not touch his food. He drinks water and urinates but no food and no poop. It’s been two days now and I’m worried about the no food. I just brought him to a new vet and they said either to take him to a 24-Hour facility and put him on IV fluids or to give him an appetite stimulant. We opted for the second one and are waiting to start with that. I read an article that sometimes it takes cats 2-5 days to eat post CHF and draining procedures. Is this accurate? Also it’s so hard to give him meds using this whole syringe thing. He struggles and strain so like crazy and also he hates hospitals. So am trying not to put him in if I don’t have to because he really doesn’t do well with all that. Please let me know any guidance or thoughts. Thank you.

Aug. 25, 2018

Kulio's Owner

answer-icon

recommendation-ribbon

0 Recommendations

Each cat is different, however some loss of appetite may occur and some cats do not regain their appetite at all and require force feeding; in these cases supportive care and management of the heart failure is needed to improve heart function and to remove fluid. There is nothing I can recommend without examining Kulio first. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 26, 2018

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

Rufus

dog-breed-icon

short hair

dog-age-icon

4 Months

thumbs-up-icon

3 found helpful

thumbs-up-icon

3 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Blue Gums And Tongue
Heavy Breathing With Open Mouth
Wide Open Eyes
High Grade Heart Murmur
Slooshing In Chest

My 4 month old kitten went into cardiac distress. I took him to emergency vereinary care, he said that the kitten likely wouldn’t have made it through the night so he didn’t feel like testing would be of any help. He suggested euthanization. I even said I was willing to surrender to surrender the kitten just so he could get the care that he needs...did I do the wrong thing by euthanizing him? Do you think he said all of this because he knew I was short on money? He wanted a $220 deposit before starting.

Aug. 17, 2018

Rufus' Owner


answer-icon

Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

3 Recommendations

I don't think that the emergency veterinarian suggested euthanasia for Rufus because of funds - we don't recommend that option unless we think that the chance of recovery is very poor. From your description, Rufus was probably going into heart failure and would not have survived, and this option was kinder. I am sorry for your loss.

Aug. 17, 2018

Do you think it might have helped if I sought treatment sooner? The vet said that if they are born with it, it’s hard to gage a survival rate...I just want to know for peace of mind that I did the right thing and that there were no other options I could have taken sooner

Aug. 17, 2018

Rufus's Owner

Was this experience helpful?

Congestive Heart Failure Average Cost

From 474 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,800

Need pet insurance?
Need pet insurance?

Learn more in the Wag! app

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews

Install


© 2022 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.