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Home Care of a Dog or Cat with Heart Disease or Heart Failure

Monitoring and Treating Canine and Feline Heart Disease or Heart Failure at Home

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Heart Disease and Heart Failure in Dogs and Cats

Dogs and cats with heart disease and/or heart failure need special care at home.
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Dogs and cats that have heart disease need special care and monitoring at home. Proper care and monitoring of your dog or cat at home can help delay the onset of heart failure and help alert you if your pet's condition worsens.

Caring for the Dog or Cat with Heart Disease or Heart Failure

Administer any medications dispensed for your dog or cat by your veterinarian by carefully following the label directions for the medication. Do not change the dosage of medications or stop giving medications without first discussing the decision with your veterinarian.

A special diet may be recommended for your dog or cat if heart disease has been diagnosed. A diet low in sodium is usually advisable. Avoid treats and other foods that have a high salt content.

Make certain that your dog or cat has access to fresh water at all times. This is especially important if your pet is receiving diuretics, such as furosemide (Lasix®). Do not limit your pet's access to water even if he is urinating more than normal. This is a normal response to the diuretic medication and limiting water intake could cause your pet to become dehydrated.

Ideally, dogs and cats with heart disease should avoid situations of extreme heat or humidity. In addition, excessive physical activity should be avoided and excitement should be minimized as much as possible.

Monitoring Canine and Feline Heart Disease and Heart Failure

Monitoring the progress of your dog or cat is an important part of caring for a pet with heart disease. It is especially important to watch for the signs of heart failure.

  • Monitor the activity level of your dog or cat. If your pet becomes less active, it may indicate that his heart disease is progressing and getting worse.
  • Monitor the exercise capacity of your dog or cat. Exercise intolerance is often a sign of heart disease and/or heart failure. If your pet is unable to do the things he is used to doing, it may mean that the heart disease is progressing.
  • Monitor your pet's interaction with family members. Dogs and cats that are not feeling well will frequently become withdrawn and avoid contact. If your dog or cat is not showing interest in activities that he normally enjoys, your veterinarian should be consulted.
  • Watch your dog or cat's appetite. A lack of appetite may indicate that your pet is not feeling well. Not eating for a significant length of time can cause further health complications.
  • Your dog or cat's ability to breathe comfortably is extremely important. If your pet is having difficulty breathing, he should be seen by a veterinarian immediately. Difficulty breathing is an emergency situation.
  • Measuring the sleeping respiratory rate is a good way to monitor whether your pet's condition is worsening. Count the number of breaths your pet takes in one minute while he is sleeping. Dogs and cats with sleeping respiratory rates greater than 30 may be suffering from heart failure. If your pet's sleeping respiratory rate is increasing, you should consult your veterinarian.

Though it may be impossible for you to stop your dog or cat's heart disease from getting worse, proper home care can help improve the quality of your pet's life. Careful monitoring can help you determine whether your pet's condition is deteriorating and alert you that a visit with your veterinarian is in order.

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