Congestive Heart Failure in Cats When to Euthanize

Congestive Heart Failure in Cats When to Euthanize

Congestive heart failure is a condition where the heart fails to pump oxygenated blood to all parts of the body. This causes the fluids to build up in the lungs. This can be caused by only one side of the heart or both sides of the heart. Congestive heart failure is a life threatening condition and the term is also medical. 

When your dear pet cat’s heart can not pump sufficient quantity of blood, the body of the cat will compensate which means that the tissues will receive the oxygen and blood that is needed. As time goes by, when the heart disease becomes more acute it will start effecting on these tissues which are compensating for the heart. This will result in the fluids to go back up into the lungs causing congestion of the lung tissue. 

There are some cases where the walls of the cat’s heart will not be able to stretch as usual. This condition is called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. This condition prevents the walls of the heart to pump blood all over the body. As a consequence fluid gets build up in the lungs making it extremely hard for your dear cat to breath. 

If your pet is suffering such a condition and there is no cure of the pain euthanasia is a humane thing to do than let your cat suffer till death. Talk to your vet and know what you can do for your pet. It is often recommended to cats who have aged and can not continue living a healthy and painless life or those cats who are diagnosed with a disease that is slowly and painfully taking away their life.

If there is a cure to the condition of your cat and if you can afford it you should do that first then if it does not work you know it is time. If your cat is having more bad days than good days it is time you let her go. Anyways always ask your vet first because every pet has different conditions. Some are curable some are not. So it is best to get your cat checked up before you take any drastic decision. 

What are the Symptoms of congestive heart failure in cats?

When in early stages of congestive heart failure there are only a few symptoms. But if the disease continues without being treated then there are some symptoms visible. They are –

  • The cat will start to eat less than he used to do on a regular day and he will start drinking less water than usual. 
  • The cat will become weak, lazy and not very active. He may have difficulty walking. 
  • The cat’s tongue and gums will turn greyish or blueish. 
  • The cat will have difficulty in breathing and also have difficulty when he will try to swallow his food. 
  • He will have heavy and fast breathing. He will start panting too. 
  • His heartbeat will also get fast. 
  • The cat will have a bloated abdomen. His back legs will get paralyzed and he might collapse. 

When in the end stage of this condition, the cat will have symptoms such as —-

  • A persistent cough and rattling sound in the chest. 
  • The cat’s appetite will get even more less. 
  • The cat will have nausea and his heart rate will also increase. 
  • He will have shortness of breath
  • He will be less active and swelling. 
What are the Symptoms of congestive heart failure in cats

Causes of congestive heart failure in cats 

This disease can affect any cat no matter their age, breed or gender. However older cats have higher risk of catching this disease. Some common causes of this disease are —-

If the cat has any birth defects. 

Anemia causes this disease. 

Abnormal heart rhythm also leads to this. 

Sometimes blood clots form in the heart and this causes congestive heart failure. 

If your cat has heartworm disease. 

Any heart defects also causes this condition. 

High blood pressure, hypothyroidism and other thyroid disorders also cause this condition. 

If your cat has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy it is likely that your cat may have congestive heart failure. 

Any tumour or narrow aortic arteries also cause this disease. 

How to diagnose congestive heart failure in cats?  

When you suspect that your cat might have this disease you will go to vet. Then your cat will have to go through a certain number of tests to determine if he has congestive heart failure or not. These tests can be —-

  • A physical examination to know congestion on the lungs. 
  • Chest radiographs that enable assessments of lungs, heart and blood vessels. 
  • Urine tests and urinalysis.
  • Measurements of blood pressure. 
  • Blood test, thyroid hormone tests, heartworm tests and tests for FELV/FIV. 
  • X-rays are also done in these cases to get a view of the cat’s chest. 
  • ECGs or Electrocardiographs( records the electrical activities of the heart) 
  • USG of the heart. This is an ultrasound test. 
  • A cat who has a heart murmur does not always have a heart disease functional murmurs are normally low grade. Only if gallop sounds or arrhythmias are detected, further examinations will be needed. For that Echocardiography is to be carried out by some experienced cardiologists. 

To diagnose congestive heart failure the vet will do a full body examination which will focus mainly on your cat’s heart portion and chest cavity and not to mention their breathing. If your vet is not qualified enough or experienced enough they will refer you to a cardiologist to perform these tests. 

How to diagnose congestive heart failure in cats

What actually happens during euthanize, and does it hurt? 

First, make up your mind about whether you want to be present during the procedure. But keep in mind that you being there with your beloved pet will make it a little bit easy for her. Also, if you want family members and friends to be there let your vet know. Ask questions about the things you don’t know to your vet. If you can make the procedure happen at your home then try to do that because it will be much comforting for your cat. If the current vet can not do it then he might suggest someone else (mobile bet) who can do it at your home. You have to sign a consent paper before your vet can proceed with this procedure.

In cats euthanasia usually involves the IV injection of a combination of pharmaceutical components which stops the heart quickly. This solution is mostly made up of pentobarbital but in some cases it contains phenytoin. It is slightly blue, purple or pink and a bit thick. It is put through the veins. This way it quickly gets to the target. It can also work through body cavity but not as quickly as in the vein. 

If you want your cat to be more comfortable you can have an IV catheter placed in your cat. This will allow much quicker and easier access to the vein. The process will also be quick and painless for your cat. It can also reduce the chances of complications during the process. 

The vet may also apply sedative to your cat before starting the actual eithanasia solution. This will help your cat to be more relaxed and sleepy before the euthanasia part. 

What can we do to make this process easier for our cat? 

Death is inevitable. You can not deny the fact that your pet has a shorter lifespan than you and will die in your lifetime. We know the risks but still we accept a pet as our own. It is the hardest thing to do. But sometimes you have to think what is best for your cat. Euthanasia is not a thing to be considered comfortable. But there are certain things you can do to make the process more humane, more easy going on your pet cat. 

1.We mostly think that we have to go to the vet to complete this procedure. This includes an appointment with your vet and being in the room where examinations will be done. Medications will be prepared. This takes 5 – 30 minutes, it depends upon every individual pet. You are always given some time with your pet after the procedure but the time is limited by the clinic. If you decide on cremation, your cat’s body will be at the hands of the vet but if you decide burial then you can take your dog home. Crying in front of other people may be uncomfortable for you and proper griefing is necessary for you or anyone who has lost their loved ones. When you take your cat to the vet he might be agitated or scared, you do not want him to go like that do you? They can smell other animals who have been in the exam room and this can make them anxious or stressed. So, euthanasia at home will be a more humane way to let your pet go. 

2. Cats have a strong sense of smell, so at their last moments they search for their pet owners. Some people can not stay and watch their cat die so they request to leave before the process but just try to face your fear and be there with your kitty. Be there with your loved pet as he was there with you every single day. 

3. Surround them with their favourite things, you can give them their favourite food. Surround him with familiar objects and with the presence of your cat’s loved ones. The vets are very gentle but not their owner. Your cat doesn’t know them. So, if you love them don’t leave them at their final moments searching for your love. 

Congestive Heart Failure in Cats When to Euthanize

4. Spend time with them before taking them to the vet or doing the process at home. Be near them, hold them, make them feel safe and comfortable around you. Do all the things they liked to do. Take time to say goodbyes. Thank him, hug him, love him with all your heart. Care for him for those last  few days because they will not be in your arms after that. 

It is the toughest thing for you as well so take your time to recover properly. Do not let it pent up everyday. Do all arrangements and payments before going through the process as after your cat has gone to heaven it will be too painful to do all that. 

What happens after euthanize?

Finally, the euthanasia solution is injected into your cat’s vein. It quickly spreads through the body and within seconds your cat will be unconscious. It does not inflict any pain or suffering. Your cat’s breathing will slow down and then it will stop breathing after a few seconds(estimated 30). His heart will stop consequently and he will die peacefully.

After the solution is put through, your vet will keep track of the heart rate to confirm the death. Your vet will notify you when your cat has passed away. At this moment the vet will usually step outside to give you some moments alone with your beloved cat. This will be an emotional time when everyone around you will understand what you are going through. They will give you plenty of privacy and lend you their shoulders to cry on as the feeling you are going through is indescribably painful. Stay for whatever time you feel comfortable. If you have already paid and arranged everything then you can just go home with that exhausted heart because you also need rest as you have suffered a near death experience too while you just had to watch your pet slowly slipping away from your grip. 

Remember your cat may release body fluids, urine, feces upon death. This happens because your cat’s muscles have relaxed. Your cat’s eyes may stay open. In some cases as the air and energy leaves your cat’s body there might be some sounds or muscle spasms. This does not mean your cat is alive. This is just a process that happens after death. It is an important but bitter truth. But having false hope is even more cruel to you. 

What happens after euthanize


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