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Dogs Suffering From Congestive Heart Failure

heart failure in dogs

Dogs Suffering From Congestive Heart Failure



The condition known as congestive heart failure (CHF) is typical in canines. About ten percent of all dogs, and approximately seventy-five percent of senior dogs, have some form of heart disease.

CHF is not a disease in and of itself; rather, it is a condition that develops due to heart disease.


What exactly does it mean when a dog has congestive heart failure?

In dogs, congestive heart failure happens when the heart cannot pump enough supply blood to the body, leading to increased pressure and fluid that normally leaks into the lungs and, less frequently, other major organs.

This causes the lungs to become enlarged and causes increases the dog’s risk of developing heart failure.

When fluid collects in or around a dog’s lungs, it stops them from expanding regularly and disrupts the normal flow of oxygen into circulation. This could lead to several serious health problems. This might result in a wide range of symptoms and health problems.

CHF can be a condition with a slow onset that develops over time.

Manifestations of congestive heart failure in dogs and its associated signs and symptoms

The signs and symptoms linked with CHF might vary from one patient to patient, depending on the underlying heart disease and whether the condition afflicts the side of the heart (right or left). There are some situations where the symptoms will be the same on either side.

It is important to take the following warning symptoms seriously and discuss them with your veterinarian as soon as possible:

  • Fainting
  • Having trouble breathing or having shortness of breath
  • Unable to engage in physical activity
  • Constant coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Having trouble getting settled down and pacing right before bedtime
  • Lack of appetite

  • Swollen belly (due to fluid buildup)

  • Loss of weight
  • Alteration in the color of the tongue and gums to a bluish-gray (a result of poor oxygen flow)
  • Rapid beating of the heart
  • When one listens to the lungs, one can hear a crackling sound.

Both right-sided and left-sided CHF eventually lead to oxygen depletion in the tissues, resulting in heart failure for the patient.

What Exactly Differentiates Right-sided CHF from Left-sided CHF?

Left-sided congestive heart failure

This is the most frequent kind of canine congestive heart failure. The oxygen-rich blood collected by the left side of the heart is pumped to numerous organs throughout the body.

Coughing, difficulty breathing, and intolerance to exercise are warning signals that point to a buildup of pressure in the blood veins that transport blood to the left atrium (the upper chamber) and ventricle. Other warning signs include chest pain, dizziness, and nausea (lower chamber).

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Consequently, fluid buildup occurs within the lungs (a condition known as pulmonary edema). Occasionally, canines with left-sided congestive heart failure will pass out due to a lack of blood flow and oxygen to the brain. They typically have a faster breathing rate than healthy dogs.

Right-sided congestive heart failure

If the right side or part of the heart is not strong enough or if there is a valve that is not working properly, the heart would not be able to supply or pump enough blood to the lungs so that oxygen can be taken in.

The vessels that transport blood to the right atrium and the veins and capillaries throughout the body experience an increase in pressure. This can lead to a disease known as ascites, an accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity.

Peripheral edema is the medical term for the swelling that can occur as a result of fluid leaking out of veins in the limbs, which can also cause swelling.

Biventricular failure

This condition develops when neither the right nor the left ventricle functions as it should.

What Are The Underlying Factors Leading To Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs?

CHF can be caused by various aspects of a person’s lifestyle. Some dogs are born with congenital cardiac problems that contribute to this ailment, but the symptoms of those defects don’t often show up until much later in the dog’s life.

The incidence or case of congenital heart disease in dogs is extremely low, accounting for only around 5% of all cases of heart disease in canines.

The following are examples of common congenital cardiac diseases:

  • Insufficiency of the mitral valve (leaky valve disease). While the mitral disease can be present at birth, it most frequently manifests in middle age or later in life.
  • Cardiomyopathy with dilated ventricles (an enlarged heart)
  • Atrial septal defect (hole in the heart)
  • PDA, or patent ductus arteriosus, is a condition where a specific blood vessel does not close properly after birth.

Even dogs born with healthy hearts can develop heart disease at some moment in their lives. As they age, dogs might experience similar health problems to those that can evolve into CHF in humans. Additional reasons why dogs can get CHF:

  • Heartworms: Heartworms are parasites that can obstruct the heart’s valves or even cause a whole heart chamber to become blocked. 
  • Hormones: Specifically the thyroid, can affect the function and functioning of the heart. For instance, a dog that suffers from hypothyroidism would typically have a heart rate that is significantly lower than average.
  • Parvovirus: The virus can infect the heart muscles and even lead to sudden cardiac failure in canines.
  • Bacteria Infections: Bacteria from the mouth could enter the bloodstream and attach themselves to the heart valves, leading to inflammation in the lining of the heart or the valves themselves. (This is why having regular dental checkups is of the utmost importance.
  • Nutritional Shortage: A nutrient deficiency such as a lack of vitamin E or selenium could cause harm to the muscles of the heart.

Do dogs ever experience a heart attack?

A dog’s unanticipated and unexpected passing due to heart illness is possible, even though it occurs very infrequently.

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Obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and major bacterial infections are some of the primary risk factors that raise the likelihood of a dog suffering a heart attack.

If you think your dog has a heart attack, take them to the emergency room of the animal hospital closest to you as soon as possible.

A sort of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can be performed on dogs; however, to perform it correctly, you will need to have specialized training.

If performed incorrectly, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) has the potential to do your additional dog harm and cause a delay in receiving the appropriate medical assistance from a veterinarian.

Diagnosing CHF in dogs

To diagnose congestive heart failure in your dog, the veterinarian will require a comprehensive medical history of your pet and a comprehensive physical exam. To get at an appropriate diagnosis, there will need to be several tests performed:

  • Tests on the dog’s blood and urine can reveal whether or not the dog’s liver and kidneys are affected by the heart illness.
  • X-rays of the chest can provide information about the size and structure of the heart, as well as any changes that have occurred in the lungs (e.g., fluid buildup).
  • The electrocardiogram, sometimes known as an EKG, is a diagnostic tool that identifies irregularities in the heart’s electrical activity (rate and rhythm).
  • This examination, also known as echocardiography, uses ultrasound to investigate the heart’s size, shape, and motion. Additionally, it may tell whether or not the heart is pumping blood effectively. A veterinary cardiologist should only carry out this diagnostic examination with board certification (or by a cardiology resident-in-training).
  • The heartworm antigen test is a screening procedure that looks for aberrant proteins produced by heartworms.

There are four distinct stages of canine heart failure (CHF). Owners can be unaware of a problem with their pets until the ailment has advanced to a later stage because stages one and two present minimal signs.

In the first stage, the dog’s heart begins to show signs of failing. There are currently no outward manifestations of the disease or its symptoms.

In the second stage, the individual may experience symptoms such as panting, shortness of breath, and fatigue, particularly after engaging in physical activity.

In the third stage, fatigue and shortness of breath become increasingly common, even on very short treks. Coughing and wheezing may start. Because the heart is not pumping blood as effectively as it should, fluid builds up in the chest, which makes it harder to breathe.

In the fourth stage, CHF is currently at its fourth and final stage. Even when the patient is at rest, breathing becomes difficult. It may be difficult to walk if the fluid has accumulated in various places of the body, such as the legs or the belly, which can cause swelling. It’s even been known to make people throw up.

Treatment For Dogs Suffering From Congestive Heart Failure

The treatment is determined by the underlying cardiac disease as well as the severity of the condition. CHF is a condition for which there is typically no known cure; however, medications available can significantly improve one’s quality of life.

If a congenital anomaly such as a PDA is the underlying cause of CHF, surgical repair can help reverse heart failure if performed promptly.

When treating CHF, the goal is to minimize fluid accumulation in the body while simultaneously increasing the volume of the blood pumped to the lungs and the rest of the body.

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The following list is some of the possible prescription drugs, dietary supplements, and meal plans that may be recommended:

  • ACE inhibitors (enalapril, benazepril, captopril) These medications help lower blood volume and pressure, alleviate heart stress, and slow heart muscle degradation.
  • Diuretics are medications that stimulate the kidneys to eliminate excess fluid that has accumulated in the lungs and the abdominal cavity.
  • Vasodilators and positive inotropic medications: Vasodilators help relax blood vessels and reduce pressure on the heart, making it very easier for the heart to pump blood. Positive inotropic drugs help the heart beat more quickly. Positive inotropes enhance the force with which the heart muscle beats, making the heart pump adequate blood to the lungs and the rest of the body. Positive inotropes also increase the rate at which the heart muscle beats.
  • Nutrition: Reducing the quantity of sodium consumed daily by your dog can help prevent fluid accumulation in the body. In addition, supplements such as vitamin B, taurine, and carnitine, as well as antioxidants such as coenzyme Q10 and vitamin E, may be of assistance. (Before administering any dietary supplements to your dog, contact your animal hospital first.) Lastly, a diet encouraging your dog to keep a healthy weight is vital for the canine’s cardiovascular health.


Is there any treatment available for canine congestive heart failure?

The unfortunate reality is that there is typically no treatment available for heart disease. Nevertheless, it is feasible to control the condition with the appropriate care, and most dogs respond positively to treatment and drugs.

Is CHF a Disease That Can Be Passed on to Humans or Other Pets?

CHF is not an infectious disease. However, given that heart illness can be passed down through generations, veterinary professionals strongly advise against breeding dogs who already have a preexisting heart ailment.

What are the Expenses Involved in the Treatment of CHF?

Diagnostic testing can be pricey, and the medications used to treat CHF can also be pricey, particularly if they are administered for an extended length of time. Make sure you ask about the different generic brand options.

Dogs can recover from congestive heart failure and have it managed well.

A dog can still have a joyful and fulfilling life even if it has CHF. Nevertheless, a healthy diet, regular exercise under close supervision, appropriate medicine, and comprehensive care are required.

Monitoring a dog’s health consistently and determining whether or not a treatment is successful requires regular examinations. Any sign of deterioration in one’s health requires prompt medical attention.

How To Keep Your Dog From Developing Congestive Heart Failure

CHF can be avoided if owners are alert to the signs and symptoms associated with heart problems and take appropriate action as soon as they present themselves.

A healthy diet is essential, but taking supplements may also be beneficial in lowering the risk of developing heart disease.

Some preliminary research has found a correlation between diets that exclude grains and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (specifically dilated cardiomyopathy).

If your dog currently consumes food that does not contain grains, consider switching your dog’s diet to one that contains grains with your dog’s veterinarian.

Is there a vaccine that protects dogs against congestive heart failure?

There is currently no vaccine available that can protect against CHF.


To Sum up: Congestive heart failure in dogs

It is estimated that 75% of older dogs suffer from congestive heart failure at some point in their lives. Managing the illness with medicine and other adjustments to one’s lifestyle can be helpful despite the absence of a cure.

Because it isn’t always simple to identify in its early stages, prevention is very vital; the right diet, exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight are the three most significant factors in canine cardiovascular health.

It is very crucial to be aware of the signs and symptoms so that you may get help as soon as you suspect congestive heart failure (CHF) may be a problem. Additionally, it is important to keep up with your annual appointments with the veterinarian.


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