Heart Failure, Congestive (Right-sided) in Cats


PetMD Editorial

Updated Aug. 24, 2022

Congestive Heart Failure (Right-sided) in Cats

Right-sided congestive heart failure occurs when the heart fails to pump blood at the rate required to meet the basic needs of the body. While it is not curable, there are treatment options that can improve the quality of life for your cat.




All organ systems in the body can be affected by congestive heart failure. Common signs include weakness, lethargy, difficulty breathing, an enlarged liver, and abdominal distension. Upon physical examination, several signs of disease may present, including jugular vein distention, heart murmur, and rapid, shallow breathing.




Heartworms are one of the causes for congestive heart failure, but in some cases, congenital heart failure stems from hereditary causes. In other cases, a weak heart muscle can cause congestive heart failure.




A complete blood profile will be conducted, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis. Other diagnostic tests include heartworm testing and fluid analysis to determine the cause. In addition, you will need to give a thorough history of your cat's health, onset of symptoms, and possible incidents that might have preceded this condition. The history you provide may give your veterinarian clues as to which organs are being affected secondarily.


Additionally, if there is any information you can give about your cat's familial line, it can help your doctor to pinpoint the origin of the heart condition. Your veterinarian will need to differentiate between all of the different causes for the heart failure when examining your cat.






Unless the condition is severe, your cat will most likely be treated on an outpatient basis. Some of the treatment options that are used to treat this condition include a restriction on activity and a reduction of sodium in the diet. In some cases, surgery will be required. If there is a build up of fluid in the abdomen or chest, a technique called tapping can be used to remove some of the excess fluid.


Living and Management


Following treatment, it is important to administer the full course of prescribed medication and observe any abnormalities in your cat's behavior. It will also be necessary to monitor your cat's kidney health. This disease is not curable, so ongoing management will be required.




Preventing right-sided congestive heart failure is dependent on the underlying cause of the disease. For example, if heartworms are causing the heart disease, you will need to ensure that your cat is taking heartworm medication regularly, and that you revisit your veterinarian for routine wellness checkups.

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