Getting to the Heart of Pimobendan in Heart Failure: Will It Work For My Dog?

You just found out your dog has congestive heart failure (CHF). It is scary, stressful, and heartbreaking. You cannot imagine life without your pet. You wonder what the treatment is? Is it safe and can I afford it? Will it work? Fortunately, pimobendan is commonly prescribed by your veterinarian to treat your pet’s condition. Am I out of options if my dog has trouble taking tablets? This is where compounded pimobendan provides benefit! Pimobendan can treat your furry friend’s heart disease to live a long, happy, and playful life. 

What is CHF?1,2

CHF or heart failure happens when your dog’s heart is not able to pump blood effectively all over the body. This could be due to a weak heart muscle or leaky heart valve. Doberman Pinschers have one of the highest risks for CHF. Common signs that your dog may have heart failure include coughing with difficulty breathing, tiring more easily, and not playing or walking like they used to. Your dog might have a swollen belly, loss of appetite, excessive panting, coughing at rest, or pale gums. If your dog experiences these, contact your veterinarian immediately.

If your dog is diagnosed with CHF or even at risk, your veterinarian may prescribe pimobendan. Pimobendan has been clinically proven to prevent abnormal heart beats that can be deadly. Your dog still has a lot of life left, so it is worth it!

What is pimobendan?3-5

If your dog has congestive heart failure, pimobendan may be a great benefit. Pimobendan is a vasodilator, so it works by decreasing your dog’s heart rate to pump stronger and more effectively. Your dog’s blood vessels expand, so blood is better able to be pumped all over the body and provide more nutrients to the heart. This decreases the symptoms your dog has been having, so he or she can do activities like before being diagnosed. It helps improve your pet’s quality of life, but it does not cure the disease. This is likely a life-long medication that is used with other heart medications.

This medication can be pricey, especially if you have a large dog. Josef’s Pharmacy offers the generic version, pimobendan, that is less expensive than the brand name, Vetmedin, and will work with your pet’s insurance to give you a comfortable price.

Does pimobendan work?6

Pimobendan has proven benefit to reduce death in dogs with CHF, even before CHF onset. In a five-year study with 360 dogs at risk for CHF, it was shown to extend the time before symptom onset by 15 months and reduce their symptoms of coughing at rest, swollen bellies, difficulty breathing, and increased tiredness. This included dogs with increased heart size because of their heart’s decreased ability to pump correctly.

How do I give pimobendan to my dog?3,5

Give pimobendan just like how your veterinarian told you. Administer pimobendan to your dog on an empty stomach an hour before feeding time. Be sure to wash your hands first. Pimobendan only comes in chewable tablets, so if it needs to be split, be sure to properly cut it in half. If your dog misses a dose, give the next dose as soon as you remember and return to the normal dosing schedule. If the next dose is due shortly, just wait and give that dose. Never double up on doses.

What are the side effects?3-5

Your dog may experience loss of appetite, low energy, diarrhea, and difficulty breathing. These side effects may be uneasy, but this medication is generally tolerated well by pets. It is important to continue giving your dog this medication to prevent heart failure exacerbations or other dangerous events. Your veterinarian or pharmacist may be able to offer tips on reducing these side effects.

A few less common, but serious side effects include changes in heart rhythm and kidney function, poor balance, and weakness. If your dog experiences any of these side effects, be sure to contact your veterinarian.

Can this be compounded and how is this different from the manufactured medication?7,8

Currently, pimobendan is only available as a chewable tablet and you may find it hard to split in half if that was recommended by your veterinarian. Your veterinarian may prescribe a dose that is weight-based and the dose is not commercially available. Maybe your dog has trouble chewing or does not like the flavor. It might be easier for your dog to take it as a liquid solution. This is where a compounded medication comes into play. Compounded medications are customizable to find the needs of your four-legged friend. Here are a few compounding options:

  • Flavored or unflavored chewables
  • Flavored or unflavored liquid solutions and suspensions
  • Flavored or unflavored capsules and tablets
  • Eye drops
  • Topical creams

A pharmacist at Josef’s Pharmacy can help you make this switch to a formulation that is both easier for you to give and your pet to take. Compounded medications can be more expensive, but Josef’s Pharmacy will help you get the best treatment in a form your pet will love and for the best price.

Can I share my heart disease medications with my dog?9

If you have a medication that is for treating your heart disease, high blood pressure, or CHF, do not share them with your dog. Dogs are not tiny humans. You may think it will save you money, but it actually does more harm than good. Not only is it illegal to share medications, but the medication will affect them differently due to differences in body weight and composition. A drug that may be given daily for you would likely need to be given less frequently for your dog to avoid toxicity.

Safety Tips

  • Keep this drug out of reach of children and pets.
  • Do not give this medication if your dog is pregnant or nursing.
  • If your dog has a poor liver or kidney, this should be used with caution.
  • Let your veterinarian know if your dog has any other cardiac conditions before taking this medication like an untreated arrhythmia.
  • Store the medication at room temperature away from sunlight and heat. Do not store it in the refrigerator or freezer.

If you have questions about treating your dog’s heart disease with compounded or manufactured medications, talk with your veterinarian or pharmacist today.


  1. Congestive heart failure in dogs. VCA Hospitals website. Accessed November 1, 2021.
  2. Get to the heart of congestive failure. DVM 360 website. Accessed November 1, 2021.
  3. Pimobendan for dogs. Wedgewood pharmacy website. Accessed November 1, 2021.
  4. Pimobendan for Congestive heart failure in pets. Avriorx pharmacy website. Accessed November 1, 2021.
  5. Pimobendan: Good for your dog! CSF pharmacy website. Accessed November 1, 2021.
  6. Improving quality of life for pets with heart disease: This is epic. Accessed November 1, 2021.
  7. Yes, pets get heart disease too. Compounding center website. Accessed November 1, 2021.
  8. Compounding FAQ for pet owners. AVMA website. Accessed November 1, 2021.
  9. Is it safe to share my medication with my pet? Single care website. Accessed November 1, 2021.