Heart Failure in Cats and Dogs: Symptoms and Treatment

Herzinsuffizienz bei Katzen und Hunden: Symptome und Behandlung

Owners of cats and dogs want one thing above all else and that is for their pet to stay healthy for as long as possible. Unfortunately, this wish does not always come true. The beloved animal can suffer from heart failure. But how do you diagnose this and what can you do to treat the disease?

In this guide we deal with the topic in detail and give important tips for owners of dogs and cats.

What is heart failure?

If an animal suffers from heart failure , it means that the heart's pumping power is severely limited . This in turn affects the blood flow in the body, so that it no longer occurs in sufficient quantity and speed. Heart failure is therefore also called heart failure .

An important job of the blood is to transport oxygen from the lungs to all organs. However, if there is no longer sufficient circulation , the organism may be undersupplied with oxygen.

Heart failure in dogs and cats can occur acutely but can also be chronic . While acute heart failure can be recognized by a sudden and rapid deterioration in pumping performance, chronic heart failure progresses and gradually causes various impairments in the lives of the affected animals.

Symptoms and features of heart failure

It is often cats and dogs of advanced age that show symptoms of heart failure. The following symptoms may occur:

  • Reluctance to move and sleepiness
  • Cough (usually when you get up in the morning or when you are excited, but can also last the whole day as the disease progresses)
  • Shortness of breath
  • increased breathing rate (about 30 times per minute)

Many diseases that affect the heart initially go unnoticed. This is because they often begin gradually , so that the animals do not initially show any symptoms. The first sign can be a heart murmur , which can be heard when examined with a stethoscope. However, this does not have to be a cause for concern immediately.

Further observations of the animal and a possible cardiac ultrasound examination will provide more detailed information. This also shows how much the heart is already affected by the heart defect.

For animals suffering from heart failure, particular attention must be paid to proper and balanced nutrition . Dietary supplements and salmon oil for dogs can make an important contribution to maintaining quality of life.

Causes of heart failure

Heart disease in cats and dogs can be either congenital or acquired . It is possible that different areas of the heart as well as the heart muscle are affected. The following causes are possible:

  • Changes in heart valves due to age.
  • Heavy tartar and associated bacterial infections: It can happen that the bacteria in the tartar enter the bloodstream via the gums and are thus transported to the heart. There it is possible that they attack the valve structure.
  • Dilating (loaning) the heart muscle: This causes the heart muscle wall to become thin and the heart appears enlarged instead. Because the muscle loses contraction strength, it can no longer transport enough blood into the systemic circulation. Possible consequences include a backlog of blood and a so-called pulmonary edema (water in the lungs). The organs then no longer receive an adequate supply of blood.
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM): The heart muscle becomes thicker and less mobile. Even then he is no longer able to hit hard enough. This phenomenon often occurs in various pedigree cats such as the Main Coon.

Treatment options for heart failure

Since heart disease is usually a progressive process , it must first be found out what status the heart is currently in. Doctors can do this with a cardiac ultrasound examination.

In many cases, ACE inhibitors are used to relieve the strain on the heart. These ensure that the small vessels are dilated and they reduce the pressure against which the heart has to pump. However, if the heart is no longer able to beat with sufficient force, other medications are often used to improve the heart's beating power .

If there is a backlog of blood in the lungs, pulmonary edema can occur, which is best counteracted with additional drainage .

Nutrition for cats with heart failure

Cats suffering from heart failure absolutely need to get enough taurine in their diet. This is usually already found in sufficient quantities in high-quality cat food. It may also make sense to provide the sick cat with low-salt food . The cat refuses to eat ? This fact should never be simply ignored, as it can result in a lack of important nutrients .

It is also important that the velvet paw does not gain excessive weight , as the extra pounds could put additional strain on its heart. If you are already overweight, you should follow a veterinary-approved diet so that the cat can return to its normal weight.

Prognosis for cats with heart failure

In order to make a prognosis for cats with heart failure, the causes of the heart problems must be known. If therapy is started early, it increases the chances of a good prognosis. However, if the heart disease is more advanced and possibly even accompanied by pulmonary edema, it is often less good.

However, cats that receive professional treatment can largely lead a normal life with a good quality of life. To do this, they must be treated permanently and examined regularly in the veterinary practice .

Nutrition for dogs with heart failure

Dogs suffering from heart failure should ideally not be fed industrially produced food. Most of the time there is too much sodium in this. This is very harmful for the dog, especially in advanced stages of heart failure.

It is better if dog owners barf their pets. This means that you put together the food yourself from raw meat, vegetables and oils . It is important to rely on fresh and high-quality muscle meat . This form of nutrition must provide the dog with all the nutrients it needs .

The majority of energy should come from fats and proteins rather than carbohydrates. This means the nutrients can be absorbed and metabolized better. Another point that should not be ignored is that this diet can prevent the formation of tartar . In addition, chewing large, fleshy pieces is an effective prophylaxis for periodontal disease and tooth decay . Dental disease also often leads to heart problems in dogs. You can prevent both by practicing healthy barfing.

Prognosis for dogs with heart failure

Heart failure can also have various causes in dogs. However, these are only curable in rare cases . If heart failure is recognized quickly, early therapy can be initiated. Correct treatment with medication increases the prognosis for chronic heart disease.

However, if heart failure in dogs is not treated or occurs acutely, it is fatal in most cases.

Prevention of heart failure

Unfortunately, targeted prevention is not possible in the case of heart failure. However, you should make sure that the animal neither suffers from a lack of exercise nor from being overweight. In general, attention should be paid to the healthy lifestyle of the dog or cat. This also means that they regularly receive high-quality food that provides them with all the important nutrients.

At the first suspicion of heart failure, the dog or cat must be taken to a veterinarian immediately . The earlier the disease can be diagnosed and treated, the better the chances are for the animal.

However, independent treatment is by no means advisable . This is not possible simply because in many cases affected animals have to receive certain medications .


If cats or dogs suffer from heart failure, this can manifest itself in different ways. How exactly the disease becomes noticeable depends, among other things, on the causes and the individual course.

In this section we address the most frequently asked questions on the topic.

How long can a cat live with heart failure?

If heart failure is detected early in cats and then checked regularly, they can live with this disease for many years. However, if there is already water retention in the lungs, this will make the cat's prospects very worse.

How does heart failure manifest itself in cats?

With heart disease, cats may exhibit symptoms such as loss of appetite, sluggishness, labored or pumping breathing, mouth-open breathing, or panting and syncope. In addition, some cats have a noticeable cough, but this alone is not necessarily a sign of heart disease in cats.

How does heart failure manifest itself in dogs?

Dogs can experience heart failure symptoms similar to those in cats. These include fatigue, reluctance to eat, restlessness and poor performance.

How long can a dog live with heart failure?

In large dogs the disease often progresses much more quickly. If the diseased dog is in the final stage and already has water in the lungs (so-called pulmonary edema), the predicted lifespan is often less than a year.


Heart failure in dogs and cats is a serious disease that is often associated with some restrictions in the lives of affected animals. They often suffer from various symptoms, which can range from a slight cough to shortness of breath. But apathy and reluctance to move are also possible warning signs.

If your pet is suspected of having heart failure, it should be examined at a veterinary practice as quickly as possible. Veterinarians can carry out detailed blood, urine and ultrasound examinations to make an accurate diagnosis .

Treatment methods include medication and a change in diet . The latter can be particularly useful if the animal is already in the second half of its life or if it has a genetic predisposition to heart disease. Both L-carnitine and taurine are found in high levels in the heart muscle. If there is a deficiency, the heart muscle can no longer contract sufficiently. The result is reduced blood flow to organs and tissue, which in turn promotes the occurrence of other diseases.

It then makes sense and is important to supplement the feeding so that the animals receive a high proportion of L-carnitine and taurine. The Heart Tonicum from Recoactiv offers dogs and cats both substances, which allows their heart muscle to regain strength. It also has the advantage that it is extremely tasty for the animals and is therefore well received in most cases. In addition to providing important nutrients, it can also increase fluid intake.