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When a family’s beloved dog is diagnosed with congestive heart failure, it can be very stressful and worrisome for everyone involved. However, new advances in veterinary medicine now offer dogs suffering from this condition a fighting chance to live a longer, healthier life. The key is getting your pet evaluated and treated as early as possible, and making the necessary changes in her lifestyle to improve her prognosis.

If your pet is diagnosed with congestive heart failure, then pimobendan may be prescribed by the veterinarian to help manage the condition, as the medication can give your dog a better chance of living a longer life.

What Is Pimobendan?

Pimobendan is a drug that’s classified as an inodilator (inotropic, mixed vasodilator). The drug works by improving systolic efficiency without the negative pathway of increasing intracellular calcium, which thereby increases cardiac output and reduces both the cardiac preload and afterload.

Pimobendan is not typically prescribed on its own, but rather as part of a treatment protocol. It is frequently prescribed alongside other cardiac drugs such as furosemide, digoxin, and/or enalapril. While pimobendan is most commonly prescribed to dogs, it can also be prescribed to cats diagnosed that have experienced heart failure.

Why Pimobendan Is Prescribed in Veterinary Medicine

Pimobendan is prescribed by veterinarians to help manage congestive heart failure in pets. It is used in cases where the heart failure is being caused by either dilated cardiomyopathy or valvular insufficiency. Most animals with clinical congestive heart failure show a rapid response to pimobendan, usually within one week of starting the drug. Cardiac enlargement is generally decreased within 30 days of treatment, and study results have shown an increased life expectancy.

Pimobendan has proven to be so effective that The American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine recommends its use in the treatment of congestive heart failure, especially in cases due to chronic valvular heart disease.

Dosage and Administration of Pimobendan

Pimobendan is given orally in the form of a tablet. The drug should be administered to the pet on an empty stomach. The typical dosage for pimobendan is 0.2 to 0.6 mg/kg daily, which is then divided into two doses that are given 12 hours apart. For pimobendan to work as expected, it is important to give the medication exactly as prescribed by the veterinarian.

Pimobendan starts working within 1 to 2 hours, but the effects may not be noticeable. For this reason, lab tests may be required to determine the drug’s effectiveness.
If you miss a dose, then give the next dose as soon as you remember to or, if it is close to the next scheduled dose, wait and resume with the next regularly scheduled dose. Do not administer a double dose to catch up on a missed dose. After administering pimobendan, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly.

Special Precautions for Using Pimobendan

Pimobendan is only to be administered to the pet that it has been prescribed for. The medication should be kept well out of reach of both children and pets.

Pimobendan should not be prescribed to pets diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, aortic stenosis, or other conditions where an increase in cardiac input is inappropriate. It should also be used with caution in pets with untreated abnormal heart rhythms. There is no data related to pimobendan’s effect on young, breeding, pregnant, or lactating pets; or in pets with congenital heart defects, diabetes, or other metabolic disorders. Therefore, the drug should be used with caution in these cases.

Since pimobendan is metabolized by the liver, it should also be avoided or used with extreme caution in animals with known liver or kidney problems.

Possible Side Effects of Pimobendan

Pimobendan is usually well tolerated, but it can produce some side effects in some pets. When side effects do arise, the most common tend to be gastrointestinal in nature, such as decreased appetite and diarrhea. Other possible, but not as common, side effects can include lethargy, difficulty breathing, dyspnea, azotemia, and ataxia.

If your pet starts showing signs of an allergic reaction after taking pimobendan, be sure to contact the veterinarian immediately.

Known Drug Interactions With Pimobendan

If your pet is taking other medications, vitamins, herbal therapies, or supplements, you should let the veterinarian know about them. This includes notifying your veterinarian of the drug dosages and administration schedules, to help avoid any potential risk of interaction with pimobendan.
Pets being prescribed pimobendan should not be taking calcium channel blockers or certain beta blockers, as these drugs can reduce the effectiveness of pimobendan.

Proper Storage and Disposal of Pimobendan

Pimobendan should always be stored at a controlled room temperature away from moisture, heat, and direct sunlight. Do not store it in the freezer or the refrigerator. If your veterinarian discontinues the pimobendan treatment, the remaining medication should be disposed of in the trash.