Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs, Everything You Need to Know

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While some breeds are more at risk than others, all dog breeds can be diagnosed with congestive heart failure. The diagnosis often comes as a surprise to pet parents who bring in their dogs to the vet’s office for a seemingly trivial symptom such as coughing, restlessness or lethargy.

Right off the bat, it’s important to understand that there is no known cure for congestive heart failure. Surgical options are impractical and almost never recommended by vets. However, there is hope. With a proper treatment plan, the symptoms of the condition can be controlled and your pet’s life can be extended.

dog congestive heart failure

What is CHF?

As the name suggests, congestive heart failure is a condition that results in the impairment of the heart and it prevents the organ from performing its primary role, which is to pump blood to the entire body. Congestive heart failure almost always results in the lack of oxygenation, which can lead to severe lethargy and even sudden collapses. Fluid build-up in the lungs and limbs is also not uncommon.

What Causes Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs?

Congestive heart failure in pets is a condition and not the disease itself. This life-threatening condition can be caused by one of many health problems some of which are congenital.

Ventricular septal defect, persistent ductus arteriosis, and subaortic stenosis are few of the inborn health issues that can lead to CHF. Some congenital cardiac diseases such as CVHD (chronic valvular heart disease) which can cause congestive heart failure develops over the years and is often impossible to detect in the dog’s early years.  In large and giant dog breeds CHF often occurs due to a disease called dilated cardiomyopathy or DCM.

Heartworms can also be a cause of congenital heart failure in dogs. Unlike other diseases mentioned above, CHF caused by heartworm disease is completely preventable. Oral heartworm medication makes it easy to keep your dog protected from these deadly parasites all year round.

What are the Symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure?

In most cases, dogs give their owners very little clue about the deadly health condition brewing inside them. However, there are some clinical signs that canine owners should watch out for. Following is a comprehensive list of clinical signs that may indicate congestive heart failure.

  1. Excessive Panting Even When Resting
  2. Coughing At Night
  3. General Lethargy
  4. Swollen Abdomen
  5. Collapsing or Fainting
  6. Bluing of Gums
  7. Increased Respiratory Rate

How to Treat Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs?

Most vets prescribe oral medications depending on different complexities of the condition. Following are a few types of medications and treatment options commonly prescribed.

Inodilator: Your vet may ask you to buy Vetmedin for dogs. This is a commonly prescribed medication that relaxes constricted vessels and helps the heart to contract properly.

ACE Inhibitor: These medications help in dilating the blood vessels. This, in turn, allows more blood flow and thus reducing the stress put on the heart muscles.

Diuretics: Diuretics are often used to flush out the fluid build-up in organs and limbs.

Oxygen Therapy: Dogs suffering from severe breathlessness and respiratory issues can be prescribed oxygen therapy. This provides immediate relief and buys vets more time to treat the condition.

I hope we were able to provide you some insight into congestive heart failure affecting canines and information about treatments available to combat the condition. If you are a dog owner who is currently facing this issue with your canine, please comment below to share your experience.

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