Click here to learn more.
Vetstreet. All rights reserved.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
When the heart can’t deliver enough blood to the body and fluid consequently backs up into a cat’s lungs, it’s called congestive heart failure. There are many causes of congestive heart failure in cats. Most commonly it results from a condition that causes the walls of the heart to thicken (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy), but it can also be brought on by thyroid disease,
high blood pressure, or birth defects, among other possibilities.
A cat with congestive heart failure may have trouble breathing, may be weak or tired, might refuse to eat, and could die suddenly. Depending on the underlying problem, treatment may help reverse congestive heart failure, and there are medications to reduce symptoms
Congestive heart failure is a broad medical term that means that a cat’s heart can’t deliver enough blood to his or her body. It can be caused by a failure of the left side, right side, or both sides of the heart.
When the heart starts to fail in its ability to pump adequate amounts of blood, the body can usually compensate to ensure that tissues receive the blood and oxygen they need. As the heart disease increases in severity, however, these compensatory mechanisms become overwhelmed. The heart is then unable to pump enough blood to the body so that the fluid backs up, most often into the lungs. This causes congestion of the lung tissue –– hence the term
congestive heart failure.
Though many conditions can lead to congestive heart failure in cats, one of the more common causes is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. In this condition, the muscular walls of the heart become so thickened that they are unable to stretch and fill with adequate amounts of blood to pump to the body. As a result, fluid will back up into or surround the lungs, making breathing difficult. Fluid may also back up into the abdomen, but this is less common in cats than in
dogs who suffer similar cardiac conditions.
Other causes of congestive heart failure in cats include:
Congestive heart failure can occur at any age, in any breed, and in cats of any gender, but it happens most often in middle-aged to older
In the early stages of congestive heart failure, cats might show no signs at all. As the disease progresses, signs can include:
Congestive heart failure is usually diagnosed based on symptoms and physical examination findings, in which fluid in the lungs causes them to sound congested when your veterinarian listens with a stethoscope. To definitively diagnose the condition and determine its cause, veterinarians will usually recommend a number of tests, such as:
Referral to a veterinary cardiologist may be recommended.
All cat breeds may be affected by congestive heart failure, but
Maine Coon cats may be genetically predisposed to certain types of CHF.
In some cases, such as congestive heart failure that is caused by hyperthyroidism, treatment of the underlying condition may resolve some or all of the heart problems. If the problem is caused by a congenital condition (a heart defect that the cat has had since birth), surgical repair may be an option. In most cases, however, the problem cannot be cured. Nonetheless, treatment can almost always help improve cats’ quality and length of life.
Cats with severe congestive heart failure may require initial hospitalization and oxygen therapy. If fluid surrounds the lungs (pleural effusion) or is found in the sac surrounding the heart (pericardial effusion), it may need to be removed to improve breathing and help the heart pump more efficiently.
There are plenty of medications veterinarians recommend to help reduce fluid buildup, improve heart function, and/or normalize heart rhythms. A low-sodium diet may also be recommended to help prevent fluid accumulation.
cats with congestive heart failure require medications for the remainder of their lives. Periodic blood tests, radiographs, and echocardiograms are often needed to monitor treatment success and disease progression.
There is no known means of prevention of feline congestive heart failure except through judicious breeding programs designed to eliminate any hereditarily affected animals from the gene pool.
This article has been reviewed by a Veterinarian.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
The Community Hospital staff took care
of a lost black Lab who wandered into
their ER with an injured leg.
Dr. Debbie Mandell shares the signs of
heat stress, plus which breeds may have
conditions that could put them in…
These scented oils may help you relax,
but putting them on your cat or dog
could have serious consequences.
You may love the idea of sharing your
bed with a kitten, but Dr. Marty Becker
says you should wait until he's older.
There's a lot of false information out there
about heartworm disease, so we're
debunking common misconceptions.
A rare breed that's often mistaken for a
Chihuahua, the Russian Toy is a tiny dog
known for his big personality.
Annual examinations are the cornerstone
of a good preventive care regimen and
can save you money in the long run.
Check out our collection of more than 250 videos about pet training, animal behavior, dog and cat breeds and more.
Wonder which dog or cat best fits your lifestyle? Our new tool will narrow down more than 300 breeds for you.
Visit HealthyPet magazine for interviews with pet-loving celebrities, health advice from our experts, training tips and…
Thank you for subscribing.