Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) in Rats

Melissa Pandajis
From the RMCA web site, December 2007

This condition is under-diagnosed and frequently mistaken for respiratory infection. It is often CONCURRENT with respiratory infection, making diagnosis more difficult.

  • Cool Extremities (circulation)
  • Pale/Discolored Extremities (circulation)
  • Shallow, Rapid Breathing at the Rib Cage (edema)
  • Lethargy/Inactivity/Exercise Intolerance (muscle myopathy/hypertension)
  • Decreased Appetite/Rapid Weight Loss
  • Rapid Weight Gain - Bloating (edema)
  • Mania - Without Gasping (hypertension)
  • Decreased Fluid Intake (edema/kidney disease)
  • Dilute Urine/Increased Output (kidney disease)
  • Ultrasound (echo), MRI
  • If the rat does NOT respond to antibiotics, enalapril can be used as a diagnostic tool.
  • CoQ-10
  • L-carnitine
  • Taurine
  • Calcium carbonate (Tums)
  • Enalapril Maleate (ACE inhibitor) - .55 mg/kg once a day to start -increase to twice a day after one week. As disease progresses and tolerance develops, may need to increase dose.
  • Furosemide (Lasix) - 1-2 mg/kg 1-3 times a day (I like to use as little as possible due to dehydration)
  • Buprenorphine - .02-.3 mg/kg twice a day (analgesia, sedative)
  • Deb Ducommun also recommends Atenolol (beta blocker) and Digoxin (digitalis) for certain cases (I have limited experience with atenolol and have not used digoxin)
  • Oxygen
Futher Reading:

Please read the Rat Guide - http://ratguide.com/health/cardiovascular/congestive_heart_failure.php


Rat Health Care, Deb Ducommun;
Schwertz, D et al, Sex differences in the response of rat heart ventrical to calcium, Bio Res for Nursing, Vol. 5, No. 4, 286-298 (2004);
L-Carnitine: a potential treatment for blocking apoptosis and preventing skeletal muscle myopathy in heart failure, Am J Physiol Cell Physiol 283: C802-C810 (2002);
Schoekess, BO et al, Propionyl L-carnitine improvement of hypertrophied rat heart function is associated with an increase in cardiac efficiency, Eur J Pharmacol, #286, 155-156, (1995 Nov. 14);
Hann, J et al, Protective effect of taurine against free radicals damage in the rat myocardium, Exper & Tox Path 56(3):189-94, (2004 Dec.);
Sener, G et al, L-carnitine ameliorates oxidative damage due to chronic renal failure in rats, J Cardiov Pharm 43(5):698-705, (2004 May).