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Heart Failure In Cats - Types, Symptoms & Prognosis

Heart failure occurs when your kitty's cardiovascular system is unable to pump sufficient amounts of blood throughout their body. In today's post, our Englewood vets discuss heart failure in cats, the signs, treatments and prognosis.

Heart Failure in Cats

Heart failure is not a specific disease or diagnosis, but rather a term used to explain a syndrome in which severe heart dysfunction results in failure of the heart's ability to maintain blood circulation. There are different conditions that can cause heart failure and different symptoms that may present with each.

Our board-certified cardiologists in Englewood are trained to diagnose and treat cardiovascular (heart and vessels) disease in your pet. 

Types of Heart Failure

There are four functional classifications of heart failure, all of which benefit from special care from cardiology specialists

Pressure Overload 

Heart failure caused by pressure overload occurs as a result of long-term increases in stress on the heart wall during contraction. This leads to the thickening of the wall of the ventricle that is affected.  Pressure overload can be caused by an obstruction of blood flow from the heart (such as pulmonic or aortic stenosis) or increased blood pressure throughout the body or in the arteries found in the lungs. 

Volume Overload

Heart failure from volume overload happens as a result of any disease that increases the volume of blood in the ventricle (s), thus increasing blood flow. Eventually, this can bring on signs of congestive heart failure through the enlargement of the affected ventricle's chamber. 

There are several diseases that can cause volume overload, including degenerative valve disease, hyperthyroidism, or anemia. 

Systolic Myocardial Failure

Systolic myocardial failure is a reduction in the heart muscle's ability to contract. If the reduction is significant enough, your cat's heart will not be able to maintain normal blood flow. This type of heart failure can be caused by numerous factors including genetics, trauma, infection, poisons, heatstroke, tumors, or a taurine deficiency in your cat's diet. 

Systolic myocardial failure can be identified with an echocardiograph.

Impedance to Cardiac Inflow 

This type of heart failure is caused by an obstruction to blood flow into the heart that results in the heart not getting enough blood. 

This can be caused by abnormalities in the physical structures of the heart, a condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or external compression of the heart, for example from fluid building up in the sac around the heart and creating too much pressure.

Symptoms of Heart Failure in Cats

The symptoms of heart failure depend on what is causing the heart failure and what part of the heart is affected. Some of the more common signs include: 

  • Coughing
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Reluctance to play or exercise 
  • Abnormally cold paws and ears 
  • Bloated or swollen abdomen (caused by excess fluid build-up)
  • Sudden collapse 
  • Lethargy

Treatment of Heart Failure in Cats

The treatment for heart failure in cats depends on the underlying cause of the condition. In most cases, medications are prescribed to help the heart pump more effectively and reduce symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath, and fluid buildup. These medications may include ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, and diuretics. In some cases, additional medications such as antiarrhythmics or anticoagulants may be necessary.

Lifestyle changes such as reducing physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight can also be beneficial. For cats with severe or advanced heart failure, hospitalization may be necessary to provide more intensive care such as oxygen therapy, intravenous fluids, and nutritional support.

Surgery may be necessary to repair or replace damaged heart valves.

Prognosis for Cats With Heart Failure

With proper treatment and management, many cats with heart failure can live comfortably for several years. It is important for pet owners to work closely with their veterinarian to monitor their cat's condition and adjust their treatment plan as needed.. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

The experienced team that makes up our Englewood veterinary cardiology unit provide advanced care to pets suffering from a range of heart conditions including heart failure in cats. Contact VRCC to learn more about booking an appointment for your cat.

New Patients Welcome

VRCC Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Hospital in Englewood is always accepting new patients! Our board-certified specialists and emergency veterinarians are passionate about restoring good health to Denver Metro area pets.

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