. This is a very difficult and heart-wrenching question. The best answer, unfortunately, is it depends…
It does depend on many factors including the quality of life your cat is currently experiencing. However, there are some “warning signs” that should be taken seriously and not ignored so let’s go over them:
• Your cat suddenly starts to eat much less than usual – often we see cats eating only 25% of their normal daily food intake before we will even consider euthanasia. Cats with congestive heart failure may need to be fed smaller amounts more frequently because they can become quickly out of breath when eating too much at one time. You can learn more about feeding recommendations here: http://goo.gl/Ga8Vxx
• Your cat has lost weight and muscle mass – this is one of the more common signs we see as cats with heart disease often start to lose their appetites.
This can become a vicious cycle because as they eat less, they get weaker and may need to rest more which means even less appetite. If you notice your cat is losing weight or muscle tone despite still trying to eat, it’s time for a visit with your veterinarian. Some veterinarians will monitor these changes very closely and try some different medications before doing any echocardiograms or blood work but others will want to assess him/her right away (the best way to know is to ask).
• Your cat is having trouble breathing at rest – this is a very serious sign that can come on suddenly or over time. Often owners say their cat is breathing very loudly and it sounds like they are struggling. If you notice this, don’t wait – head to the veterinarian’s office immediately! It’s really important to get sick cats evaluated as soon as possible so they can be started on medications/treatment asap if needed.
• You have noticed more frequent urination or your cat is not using the litter box – oftentimes cats affected with heart disease will start eliminating outside of their litter boxes because they cannot make it there in time.
This is usually a sign that things have become bad enough that the cat has lost some control of his/her bladder function Again, this doesn’t mean it’s time to euthanize – it just means you need to take this problem seriously, and get your cat in for an exam.
• You have noticed your cat is much more tired than usual or acting less playful/active – if you notice that your pet is not doing well, bring him/her in for a check-up right away.
Often cats with heart failure are very symptomatic at night when their respiratory rates increase (which makes them feel even worse) so don’t wait for “morning” if you suspect something is wrong. Also, remember that cats do hide signs of illness very well sometimes so it’s possible they could be feeling poorly without your knowing it.
• Your veterinarian has already diagnosed your cat with congestive heart failure – Congestive heart failure is a progressive disease which means it will only get worse over time if left untreated.
It’s also usually an “acute” crisis that gets patients into the hospital but because it’s often not something that can be cured (only managed), long-term treatment plans are often needed. This might include medications, special diets, and feline weight management; all of these may help prolong life but they do not cure congestive heart failure. Because this disease is so severe, at some point you may need to consider euthanasia since there are no guarantees with this condition – even if your cat responds well to initial treatments.
There are many other factors though so please don’t make any decisions today without having an in-depth conversation with your veterinarian.
• You have other pets and you haven’t noticed them displaying any signs of illness – this is a very important one! If you have other cats (or dogs) in the house, they may be asymptomatic carriers of FIV or FeLV or even something like feline heartworm infection! This means that the other pets may not be showing symptoms but could still be passing diseases around your cat. Because we often see multiple pets living together (especially if they hunt together outside), we need to make sure and rule these things out first before concentrating on just one pet.
Conclusion on Congestive Heart Failure in Cats when To Euthanize
The above list is not comprehensive but does give general guidelines for when we recommend evaluation by a veterinary cardiologist for congestive heart failure in cats.
There are a lot of other reasons that a cat might need this type of consultation but again, the most important thing is to work with your veterinarian and come up with a plan together.