Merck Manual

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Pet Owner Version

Treatment of Cardiovascular Disease in Cats


Suzanne M. Cunningham

, DVM, DACVIM-Cardiology, Department of Clinical Sciences, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University;

Kursten V. Roderick

, DVM, Tufts University

Reviewed/Revised Jul 2018 | Modified Oct 2022

Treatment of cardiovascular disease should be specific for the type of disease. Some defects can be repaired or corrected with surgery, while other conditions can be managed with medical therapy using one or a combination of drugs. In general, the goals of treatment are to minimize damage to the heart muscle, control the accumulation of fluids in and around the lungs, improve circulation, regulate the heart rate and rhythm, ensure that there is enough oxygen in the blood, and minimize the risk of blood clot formation. In heartworm disease, the mature heartworms and larvae should be killed. Ultimately, these goals are achieved when treatments resolve the signs of disease, the heart and breathing rates are normal at rest, and the cat has a good quality of life.

Common Types of Drugs for Cardiovascular Disease

There are many medications that a veterinarian can prescribe for cats with cardiovascular disease. The type of disease will determine the type of medication prescribed. Medications must be given exactly as prescribed; otherwise, they may not be effective and may even cause serious complications and harm.

One common type of medication use for heart problems is a diuretic. Diuretics are medicines that increase urine output. These medicines are important and effective ways to remove fluids that accumulate in cats with heart disease. The use of a diuretic can be life saving when a cat is in a crisis caused by heart failure.

Drugs called ACE inhibitors may be used to treat heart failure and high blood pressure. Medications that relax and enlarge blood vessels (such as amlodipine) are also commonly used to treat high blood pressure. Other medications may be prescribed to control arrhythmias and slow the heart rate. Mediations that prevent the formation of blood clots are often an important component of therapy in cats. In other cases, medications are provided to kill heartworms or other parasites in the cardiovascular system.

As with any disorder, your veterinarian will evaluate your cat and provide medication appropriate for its condition. Referral to a cardiologist (someone who specializes in the treatment of heart disease) may also be necessary. It is then the responsibility of the pet owner to follow through and provide their cat the correct dose of medicine on the schedule prescribed by the veterinarian.

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