By Rania Gollakner, BS, DVM, MPH

What is pimobendan?

Pimobendan (brand name: Vetmedin®) is a heart medication used to treat dogs with congestive heart failure (CHF), usually caused by either dilated cardiomyopathy or valvular insufficiency.

Its use in cats to treat heart failure is ‘off label’ or ‘extra label’. Many drugs are commonly prescribed for off label use in veterinary medicine. In these instances, follow your veterinarian’s directions and cautions very carefully as their directions may be significantly different from those on the label.

How is pimobendan given?

Pimobendan is given by mouth in the form of a tablet on an empty stomach. Give this medication exactly as prescribed. This medication should take effect within 1 to 2 hours; however, effects may not be visibly noticeable and therefore laboratory tests may be required to evaluate if the medication is working.

In some countries, it can also be given as an injection in the hospital, or by mouth in the form of an oral liquid.

What if I miss giving my pet the medication?

If you miss a dose, give it when you remember, but if it is close to the time for the next dose, skip the dose you missed and give it at the next scheduled time, and return to the regular dosing schedule. Never give your pet two doses at once or give extra doses.

Are there any potential side effects?

The most common side effects include gastrointestinal effects such as decreased appetite, and diarrhea. Other possible side effects include lethargy and difficulty breathing This short-acting medication should stop working within 24 hours, although effects can be longer in pets with liver or kidney disease.

Are there any risk factors for this medication?

Pimobendan should not be used in pets that are allergic to it. It should also be avoided in pets with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, aortic stenosis, or other conditions where an increase in cardiac input is inappropriate. Use this medication with caution in pets with uncontrolled abnormal heart rhythms. It is unknown if this medication is safe for young, breeding, pregnant, or lactating pets, or in pets with congenital heart defects, diabetes, or other metabolic disorders, so it should be used with caution in these cases.

Are there any drug interactions I should be aware of?

The following medications should be used with caution in pets using pimobendan: calcium antagonists (verapamil and diltiazem) and beta-antagonists (propranolol, atenolol).

Be sure to tell your veterinarian about any medications (including vitamins, supplements, or herbal therapies) that your pet is taking.

Is there any monitoring that needs to be done with this medication?

There is no specific monitoring that needs to be done while your pet is taking this medication. Your veterinarian may monitor your pet to be sure that the medication is working.

How do I store pimobendan?

This medication should be stored at room temperature and be protected from light.

What should I do in case of emergency?

If you suspect an overdose or an adverse reaction to the medication, call your veterinary office immediately. If they are not available, follow their directions in contacting an emergency facility.

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