Congestive Heart Failure in Cats When to Euthanize?

Dealing with the decision to euthanize a beloved cat can be difficult and it’s best to go through it carefully so you can make the right decision for your cat. Cats with congestive heart failure have a very poor outlook for survival.

When to put cat down with heart failure

When to put a cat down with heart failure

If your cat is suffering from congestive heart failure (CHF), it means his or her heart isn’t pumping blood effectively. This results in fluid buildup in the lungs, abdomen, and other organs. CHF can cause secondary problems such as kidney failure, which is why these two diseases are often treated together.

There are certain signs that your cat may be approaching the end of her life and you should consider euthanasia if they appear.

  • Difficulty breathing while resting or while eating/drinking.
  • Anorexia (not eating) or vomiting due to difficulty swallowing.
  • Coughing or gagging in an attempt to clear the throat of fluid buildup.
  • Increased thirst and urination.
  • Excessive shaking due to poor circulation.
  • Sitting or lying in an unusual position because of breathing difficulties (panting).
  • Avoidance of physical contact because of pain.

Is heart failure in cats painful?

This disease is painful because it causes fluid to build up around the heart, lungs, and other organs in the body of an affected feline. The fluid buildup restricts the normal blood flow and breathing capacity of your cat.

How long does a cat live with congestive heart failure?

The average life expectancy of a cat with CHF is about one year after diagnosis, but some live for much longer than that. It all depends on how severe the disease is and what treatment options your vet recommends for your cat.

While there is no cure for CHF, your vet may prescribe diuretics and ACE inhibitors to help relieve the symptoms. Both of these medications can have side effects, so you must keep a close eye on your feline friend while he’s on them. You should also be aware that while these medications do help to manage the symptoms of CHF, they will not cure it or stop it from progressing.

Treating congestive heart failure in cats can be tricky, but there are some things you can do at home to help keep your feline friend comfortable. You may be able to extend his life for months or even years vs. the expected 6-12 month survival window.

How can I help my cat with congestive heart failure?

If your doctor diagnoses your cat with congestive heart failure (CHF), you’ll need to give him medications to improve his condition and help relieve symptoms. The goal of treatment is to improve your cat’s quality of life and lengthen his life span as much as possible.

Some cats do better on some medications than others, so be sure to discuss options with your veterinarian to determine which type of medication would be best for your pet.

Most cats with CHF need to take a combination of drugs. Your veterinarian will prescribe medication based on the severity of your pet’s condition and how severe his symptoms are.

Diuretics help remove excess fluid from the body, while ACE inhibitors can help lower blood pressure. Both medications can help cats feel better, breathe easier, and may reduce coughing.

Adding fiber to your cat’s diet will make it easier for him to pass stool, which can reduce abdominal discomfort from constipation. Your veterinarian may also recommend a low-salt diet. Avoiding sodium also helps keep water intake under control.

If your cat’s symptoms are more severe, they may need medications that improve their ability to eat, plus oxygen therapy if they become short of breath.

Conclusion of euthanizing a cat with congestive heart failure

When to say goodbye is an incredibly difficult decision for any pet owner. The decision is often made easier by the announcement of a terminal diagnosis, such as advanced-stage cancer or kidney failure. In many cases, owners are told that the “quality of life” is so poor that euthanasia should be considered.

Determining the quality of life in congestive heart failure (CHF) is not quite as clear-cut, since it involves weighing multiple considerations. For example, how serious are the symptoms? How much do they interfere with daily life? What are the risks and benefits of treatment? And ultimately: Does euthanasia seem like a humane option or an easy way out for an owner who doesn’t want to deal with treatment anymore?

The following questions can help you and your veterinarian decide whether it’s time to let go:

  • Is your cat’s condition stable or is he getting worse?
  • Is your cat still eating and drinking?
  • How strong is your cat’s desire to play, explore and interact with people and other pets in the home?
  • How strong is your cat’s desire to sleep/rest/be alone versus being active and social?
  • Is he struggling to breathe even when resting or sleeping comfortably?
  • Does he seem uninterested in his surroundings?

Speak with your veterinarian to determine the best treatment options for your cat. The goal is to provide the maximum comfort and quality of life possible while preventing sudden death.

In some cases, you might decide that it’s better to euthanize your cat once he or she becomes unresponsive, rather than waiting until the final stage of heart failure. It’s important not to over-treat a cat who is losing his or her quality of life.

In the end, it’s up to you and your family to decide if and when it’s time to euthanize a cat with congestive heart failure.

Heart Failure in Cats - symptoms, treatment + life expectancy - Cat Health Vet Advice
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Hannah Elizabeth is an English animal behavior author, having written for several online publications. With a degree in Animal Behaviour and over a decade of practical animal husbandry experience, Hannah's articles cover everything from pet care to wildlife conservation. When she isn't creating content for blog posts, Hannah enjoys long walks with her Rottweiler cross Senna, reading fantasy novels and breeding aquarium shrimp.

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