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Finding out your pet has been diagnosed with a severe heart problem can be very stressful. Thankfully, several medical interventions can prolong the life of a cat or dog with congestive heart failure and other heart problems. The cat and dog heart medication pimobendan may be one of the treatments recommended by your veterinarian.

What does pimobendan do for dogs? Vets often use this medication to improve heart function and blood pressure in pets with congestive heart failure. It is most commonly used in dogs, but it may also be prescribed as extra-label for cats in certain situations. Read on to learn more about when your pet may be a good candidate for this medication and how it is commonly administered.

Pimobendan uses

What is pimobendan used for in dogs? This medication is prescribed for pets with advanced heart disease—including congestive heart failure. It may also be given to breeds of dog who are especially at risk of developing congestive heart failure, including Doberman Pinschers. Dogs don’t have to be in heart failure to take pimobendan; your vet may prescribe it for different cases of heart disease.

Pimobendan dosage guidelines

This drug is most often sold under the brand name Vetmedin as a round tablet that comes in doses ranging from 1.25 mg to 10 mg. The tablet is scored down the middle, so it’s easier to cut it in half for dosing. Your veterinarian will give you an exact pimobendan dosage chart for dogs and cats, but there are some general guidelines.

Dogs

Canines are typically prescribed 0.5 mg per kilogram of body weight. You can use either whole or half tablets to meet the correct dose. Dogs typically receive the total over two separate doses, given at least 12 hours apart.

Cats

Felines tend to have a smaller dose than dogs. As a general rule, cats receive just 0.25 mg per kilogram of body weight. Cats also typically receive their medication every 12 hours.

The correct pimobendan dose for dogs and cats may also depend on your pet’s particular condition and other medication. Always talk to your pet’s veterinarian about the appropriate dosage and the timetable for delivering medication.

How to administer pimobendan

Pimobendan for dogs and cats is typically best administered on an empty stomach. Wait at least an hour after administering the tablets before you feed your pet. You should wash your hands after you handle pimobendan tablets.

If you accidentally miss a dose for your pet, never double up at the next scheduled dose time. If you are closer to the missed dose than the next dose, give the missed dose immediately. If you are closer to the next scheduled dose than the one you missed, skip the dose entirely and then pick the regular schedule back up at the next scheduled time. Doubling the amount of pimobendan for cats or dogs to make up for a missed dose can lead to an overdose in your pet. Always check with your veterinarian if you are concerned about your pet’s dosing.

Possible pimobendan side effects

While pimobendan can help improve your pet’s health and general wellbeing, there may also be some side effects to monitor. Many side effects are mild and may go away as your pet becomes accustomed to the medication.

While this drug is usually well-tolerated in both cats and dogs, pimobendan side effects may include:

  • Loss of appetite: Some cats and dogs may not eat as much after taking this medication. Talk to your vet about administering the pill with food if this happens.
  • Low energy: Some pets may experience decreased energy or lethargy when they start taking pimobendan—similar to effects seen in antihistamines like cyproheptadine.
  • Diarrhea: Some pets will experience loose stools with this medication. Make sure your pet drinks plenty of water if they start having diarrhea—this helps them stay hydrated.
  • Difficulty breathing: Less commonly, some pets may have respiratory issues with this drug. Contact your vet immediately if you notice this pimobendan side effect.
  • Increased liver enzymes: Because this medication is metabolized by the liver, your vet may notice more liver enzymes when performing blood tests—however, pet parents will likely not see any visible signs of this increase.

Pimobendan is not recommended for cats and dogs with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, aortic stenosis or cardiac arrhythmias.

What does pimobendan do to the heart?

Pimobendan is part of a new class of drugs and falls under the inodilator category, which is a combination of inotropic and mixed vasodilators. Pimobendan does a few things to help improve pet heart health. First, it lowers the pressure in both arteries and veins. It also helps with something called systolic efficiency—in other words, it helps make your pet’s heartbeat more regular with less effort.

Pimobendan also helps improve heart muscle strength over time. It manages to improve blood flow to the body without causing damage or an increase in intracellular calcium.

In short, pimobendan for cats and dogs improves heart health by affecting blood flow, pressure and muscle strength.

Keep in mind that pimobendan is not usually prescribed on its own. It is typically prescribed along with other heart medications to work effectively. Your pet may also be put on furosemide, digoxin or enalapril to form a complete treatment plan.

How long can my dog live on pimobendan?

Pimobendan does not cure the underlying causes of heart failure, so pets who take it will usually be on it for the rest of their lives. Many pets who take this drug can live for many years, but this greatly depends on the severity of the heart condition, your pet’s overall health and other factors.

Pimobendan can start to improve heart health in pets as quickly as one week after they start taking it. An enlarged heart should display noticeable improvements as soon as 30 days into administration.

Should I put my dog on pimobendan?

While the benefits of this drug can be appealing to pet parents, your veterinarian will determine if pimobendan is an appropriate treatment for your pet based on their health history. Pets who are allergic to the drug should not take it. Pimobendan may not be appropriate for dogs with diabetes or any metabolic disorder.

If your dog has liver or kidney problems, this drug should be used with caution since the liver metabolizes it. Be sure to consult your veterinarian if your pet is currently taking calcium antagonists or corticosteroids like prednisone or fludrocortisone. Finally, the drug has not been approved for use in dogs and cats under six months old.

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Reviewed by Dr. Whitney Miller, DVM, MBA, DACVPM

As Petco’s Chief Veterinarian, Dr. Miller is the lead veterinary subject matter expert, overseeing the company’s standards of excellence in animal care and welfare, growth in pet services and much more. Dr. Miller leads Petco’s medical team, supporting over 200 full-service hospitals and mobile vaccination clinics operating in over 1,000 Petco Pet Care Centers nationwide