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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.

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
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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 
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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.

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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.

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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.

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Congestive Heart Failure Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$1,800

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Congestive Heart Failure Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

dog-name-icon

Casper

dog-breed-icon

Half Persian

dog-age-icon

3 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Bite Mark

My cat died yesterday suddenly she was perfectly healthy and was pregnant was about to deliver her babies in few days. She went outside and we found her dead. She had bite mark on her body but It didn’t seem to be the cause of death. I want to know the cause of her death. Her eyes were partly open her mouth was open n her tongue was hanging out of her mouth. She was 3 year n 3 months old. She became pregnant for the 4th time n there was very little gap between her 3rd and 4th pregnancy. When we found her dead she was sitting in her normal position infront of the door. Her babies died too with her.

July 13, 2018

Casper's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Whilst I understand that this is a distressing time for you but I cannot determine a cause of death without performing a necropsy, if you’re looking for answers for the cause of Casper’s death you should ask your Veterinarian for a necropsy. Possible causes may include pregnancy complications, infections, trauma, congenital disorders, poisoning among many other possible causes. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 13, 2018

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Mookie

dog-breed-icon

ESH

dog-age-icon

7 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargic, Not Eating Much,

How long will my cat live with CHF? I am having a very hard time getting him to take the meds. I have tried pill form, which has been a battle. I recently got liquid form from the compounding Pharm. At first he would eat it in his food. But, after about 2-3 days, he just walks away from it. He's definitely not getting a full dose of meds everyday.

June 22, 2018

Mookie's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

How Mookie will do with his heart condition completely depends on what stage he is in and how severe his heart failure is. I'm not sure what medications he is on, but some of the medications are probably better than none. it would be best to call your veterinarian to see what to expect if he does not take his medications, as you do not want Mookie to suffer.

June 22, 2018

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B

dog-breed-icon

American Short Hair

dog-age-icon

4 Years

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Critical severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Not Eating
Not Moving
Breathing Faint

My cat had diarrhea this past Monday and has barely ate food. We took him to the vet and they sent him home with “weight management” food by scientific diet and some probiotic to feed him for the next two days. Since last night he has been very lethargic, not eating drinking a lot of water. Today he was limp like a rag doll so I took him to the er and we found out he has hcm/ congestive heart failure. What are his success rate?

June 15, 2018

B's Owner

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0 Recommendations

It is very difficult to determine prognosis since the severity of the condition, the severity of the symptoms, response to treatment among other factors will ultimately determine the prognosis. You should follow up from the emergency visit with a visit to your regular Veterinarian who will be able to give you an idea of what to expect. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 15, 2018

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Patsy

dog-breed-icon

short hair

dog-age-icon

11 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Wheezing
Occasional Coughing Fits
Jerky Breathing

My cat is 11 years old, and was diagnosed with myocardial hypertrophy four and a half years ago. The cardiologist said he would rate the progression as moderate based on the ekg and xray. I decided against further treatment at the time, owing to my lack of funds, and we’ve had a good 4, asymptomatic years together. About 2 to 3 weeks ago I thought I noticed that her breathing pattern had started to change (sudden, jerky breaths) and I thought perhaps she was a little more lethargic. Over the last two or three days I can definitely hear a rattle-y wheeze when she breathes and her lethargy has increased. She is still eating, drinking, grooming, and asks to go outside. It seems clear to me she has some pulmonary edema and is at some early to middle stage of CHF, possibly rapidly progressing. I’m not interested in putting her through rounds of X-rays and EKGs and blood work and IVs for the rest of her life. But I would also like to be humane and do the best I can to make the rest of her life as long and pain free as possible without the luxury of those tests and treatments. Or at the least, have an informed sense of when she’s in too much pain or discomfort to let her continue on like this. Can anyone help me?

June 11, 2018

Patsy's Owner


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0 Recommendations

If you’re noticing a sudden change in Patsy’s condition and health is declining you should visit your Veterinarian for an examination as it is very difficult to give specific advice about cases like this without personally examining a patient first. Also, there may be some medical management options like diuretics which may make her more comfortable but you would need to discuss this with a Veterinarian in person. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 12, 2018

Nice.

July 2, 2018

Dazz R.

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Simon

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dsh

dog-age-icon

7 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Asymptomatic

I have been planning to move from NYC to California with my two cats. To my surprise, Simon was diagnosed with myocardial disease 6 months ago--he had no symptoms. He started taking enalapril, pimobendan, and Plavix. (He does not have CHF.) He had his second EKG last week, and the vet said one of the chambers of his heart had actually gotten smaller. The report mentions systolic and diastolic dysfunction, mild concentric left ventricular hypertropy, mild atrial dilation, and dynamic right ventricular outflow tract gradient (benign). He has no cardiac related symptoms. My question is about travel with him. I do not want to put him in danger by putting him on a plane. We live in a quiet apartment, and the cats spend only about 15 minutes in their carriers on the way to and from the vet. No other travel. Could being confined, the noise of the airport, the long flight, etc., stress him out so much that he goes into CHF? Would it help to start taking them on long car trips so they get used to being confined to their carriers and being in motion? I have been wanting to move for years, but I simply could not go if it would be a significant threat to Simon. I know this sounds crazy, but if I could hire my vet to come on the flight with us--with whatever medications would be appropriate--would that be helpful? (I've known my vet for a very long time, he has family in California, and this is really not as crazy as it sounds.) I know there are no guarantees, but I would appreciate any insights you might have. This is a tough decision.

May 16, 2018

Simon's Owner


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0 Recommendations

You should discuss Simon’s condition and your plans with your Veterinarian, since I haven’t personally examined Simon I cannot clear him as being fit to travel by air; care must be taken to determine the travel conditions of the airline you plan on travelling with as some airlines allow pets (cats and small dogs) in the cabin while others put them in the cargo hold. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 17, 2018

Talk to your vet about giving simon medication to help him sleep the entire way -although I'm not sure it would last for a 6 hour flight plus airport time. American Airlines lets you fly with your cat on board for a fee. When you do this you reserve one of the only 3 allowable pet spots the plane. It seems when we flew other airlines couldn't guarantee a spot. It is very stressful for the cat to fly. We've done it twice and the second time with knocking them out which was much better (but they were healthy too.) Good luck.

July 23, 2018

Margaret

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Luna

dog-breed-icon

mixed

dog-age-icon

6 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Trouble Walking

Our cat Luna was acting very strange a couple days ago. Meowing and breathing rapidly. We did some quick research and made the decision to take her an emergency vet. She was treated for asthma and we were told to watch her like a hawk. She had a rough night and by the next morning her breathing was still very rapid (over 100 breathes a minute!) we then rushed her back to the ER vet and they noticed her heart was showing some issues. She was placed in an oxygen tank and hooked up to an IV for the night until we could take her to a cardiologist the next morning. The cardiologist performed an ultrasound and found that she has mild heart disease. They also suspected she threw a blood clot to her right front leg which caused the sudden episode of pain and rapid breathing. She was prescribed an anti-coagulant clopidogrol and sent home. Her breathing is much much better and she is finally eating. However it’s now been 48hours after her ultrasound and she is still not walking right. While her right front leg is still understandably disabled she is now having issues with her right back leg. She’s also having a hard time staying upright and is very wobbly. Wondering if anyone else’s cat has had similar symptoms post diagnosis and treatment.

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Gracie

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domestic short hair/Tortie

dog-age-icon

12 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Anxiety
Congestive Heart Failure
Thyroid
Thyroud
Thurou

12 year old cat recently diagnosed with CHF. Slight heart murmur detected about a year and a half ago. Seemingly she was fine up until this point. She has been on thyroid meds for about 1.5 years. She is EXTREMELY anxious about going to the vets. During the visit i indicated that she seemed to be breathing more rapidly while at rest. She has a return visit to vet for following up testing and while there went into respiratory distress. All the requisite test were performed and she was diagnosed with CHF.about 5 days she began marking (peeing) on new items pajamas, throw rug, etc. we currently use feliaway diffusers. We use anti icky poo to clean areas and launder marked items. Don’t know what to do. She takes banazapril, furosemide, plavix, pimobendan and thyroid meds.

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Ziggy

dog-breed-icon

tabby

dog-age-icon

15 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Blue Tongue
Blue Tongue Scared Meowing
Blue Tongue Scared Meowing Weak

My cat had a scary experience on Saturday. He was curled up in bed when he started meowing very scared and then he tried to get up and fell over. We rushed him to the vet for lasix, X-rays and oxygen. Once he was stable, they sent us home with a prescription for lasix (2 ml, 3 times a day). He’s been better but not normal. Yesterday, I called the vet and he said the radiologist believed it’s early cardiomyopathy (atrial?). He backed off the meds, 2 ml twice a day and told me to call them on Thursday. He’s laying around, but not hiding. He’s eating and drinking and using the box (smaller than usual, though). They should be getting his blood work (we went to a different vet) and is going to look at next steps. I guess I am just wondering what else I should do? Thanks!

dog-name-icon

Domino

dog-breed-icon

Domestic shorthair

dog-age-icon

5 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Drooling
Breathing Difficulty
Lack Of Appetite
Breathing Through Mouth
Irregular Chest Movements

Two days ago, my cat and I moved to a new town. Obviously, he was nervous and stressed about his new surroundings, but I knew something was off that night when he still hadn't calmed down. By morning, he was struggling to breathe - his nostrils would flare and he had to breathe through his mouth. He stayed in two positions: either sitting up with his head extended or laying down on his side, he struggled in both positions to take a full breath. A few hours later, I arrived home to find him drooling just a little, still struggling to breathe, and occasionally meowing at me. I was still hoping against hope that it was just stress and he just needed to calm down, but this hope was shattered when he refused to eat wet food (his favorite). I immediately took him to the vet. The vet immediately knew what was wrong and the x-rays confirmed it - my cat had CHF; his heart was twice the size of a normal cat and he had fluid in and around his lungs which prevented him from breathing. 15 minutes after I arrived at the vet, the doctor put my cat to sleep. Unfortunately, there was nothing anyone could do to save him because this is a condition he had all his life, unbeknownst to me, and had manifested critically that day. If your cat is having trouble breathing, do not hesitate to take them into the vet; my experience was the worst case scenario, but perhaps you could save your cat some suffering by taking them in as soon as you notice the symptoms of CHF or any illness which would prevent them from breathing normally.

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Milo

dog-breed-icon

Orange tabby

dog-age-icon

6 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting
Rapid Breathing
Excessive Saliva
Open Mouth Breathing
Wheezing/Rattling Noises

My cat was diagnosed with a benign light heart murmur when he was 4.5 years old but otherwise clean bill of health. The vet told me not to worry and didn’t do any tests. Four evenings ago, Milo came up to bed as usual within minutes of us playing after I heard what I thought was a hairball (later learned it was a cough). I noticed he had very labored breathing. Open mouth panting and salivating excessively. This was coupled with extreme rattling and wheezing noises. He then laid his head down and lost control of his bladder so I rushed him to emergency vet. They gave him lasix and put him in oxygen chamber. Told me he was in severe respiratory distress from fluid buildup in lungs due to CHF. Of my options, I chose to leave him for observation overnight. When I went back to see him he had vomited a large pile of undigested food and appeared to be choking on top of being unable to breathe. I was so horrified I chose to put him to sleep immediately. Did I make the right decision? Why didn’t the vet give me the option to drain the fluid from his lungs? Why didn’t they immediately intibate him? Why did this come on so suddenly? 1.5 hours passed from his respiratory distress symptoms to his death. Im suffering immense grief and I’m struggling with understanding how and why this happened. He was always a loud purrer and within the last year his purrs became raspy/wheezy and he coughed every now and then. Where these signs of CHF?

Congestive Heart Failure Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$1,800

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