Chronic Valvular Heart Disease in Cats

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Treatment In-depth

Treatment for chronic valvular heart disease may include one or more of the following:

  • Treatment of valvular heart disease must be individualized. It is based on the severity of the condition and other factors that must be analyzed by your veterinarian. If your cat has only mild or moderate valvular heart disease without symptoms, no treatment is currently recommended or proven beneficial. In this situation, regular follow-up visits to your veterinarian are important to detect disease progression that might prompt treatment. Once heart failure develops, medications are dispensed to improve the heart function, reduce the regurgitant blood flow, and control fluid retention.
  • If congestive heart failure does occur, initial hospital treatment may include oxygen, diuretics (furosemide) and possibly vasodilator medication such as nitroglycerine. Hospitalization is mandatory in cases of severe valvular heart disease associated with uncontrolled fluid accumulation in the lung or chest cavity (congestive heart failure), abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias), kidney failure or hypotension (low blood pressure).
  • Chronic home therapy of heart failure caused by mitral regurgitation includes a diuretic (furosemide) to prevent fluid retention, dietary modifications, such as a sodium-restricted diet, and an angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors such as enalapril (Enacard) or benazepril (Lotensin). The ACE inhibitors reduce the activity of harmful hormones and minimize salt (sodium) retention. Advanced heart failure is also treated with digoxin, a drug that increases heart muscle contraction and helps restore balance in the autonomic nervous system. A cough suppressant may be needed if there is mechanical compression of the bronchus by the left atrium.
  • Follow-up Care for Cats with Chronic Valvular Heart Disease

    Optimal treatment for your pet requires a combination of home and professional veterinary care. Follow-up can be critical. Administer prescribed medications as directed, and be certain to contact your veterinarian if you are experiencing problems treating your pet. Remember: Inability to medicate is a common reason for treatment failure. Follow-up veterinary care for valvular heart disease often includes the following recommendations:

  • Observe your cat’s general activity level, appetite and interest. These are quality-of-life issues of importance to you and your cat.
  • Watch your cat for labored, rapid breathing or coughing.
  • If possible, learn to take a respiratory (breathing) rate when your cat is resting (ask your veterinarian about this). Schedule regular veterinary visits to monitor the condition.
  • Chest X-rays may be needed to monitor of your pet’s response to therapy, especially when there is fluid accumulation in the chest cavity.
  • Blood samples should be checked periodically to monitor the effect of drugs on the kidneys and blood chemistries (such as potassium).
  • Arterial blood pressure measurements should be done periodically, especially if your cat is receiving diuretics (furosemide) or ACE inhibitors like enalapril or benazepril.
  • Of course, the precise follow-up depends on the severity of your cat’s disease, response to therapy, your veterinarian’s recommendations, as well as your own views.
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