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Chihuahua Congestive Heart Failure

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How Veterinarians Diagnose Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs

Dog Heart Attack – Chihuahua with congestive heart failure

Diagnosing congestive heart failure will start with listening to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope. Most dogs will have a heart murmur which will be graded in severity from 1 to 6.

  • Grade 1: Very soft murmur, often difficult to hear

  • Grade 2: Soft murmur but readily heard

  • Grade 3: Moderately loud murmur

  • Grade 4: Loud murmur

  • Grade 5: Very loud murmur that can be heard with the stethoscope, barely touching the chest. The vet can feel a vibration through the chest wall over the heart

  • Grade 6: Very loud murmur that can be heard with the stethoscope of the chest . The vet can feel a vibration through the chest wall over the heart

If your veterinarian suspects CHF, he or she will likely want to perform a chest X-ray/radiograph to check for heart enlargement or evidence of fluid on the lungs . Electrocardiogram may also be used to assess the rate and rhythm of the heart.

At this point, your veterinarian may refer you to a veterinary cardiologist for more specialized testing such as an echocardiograph or ultrasound of the heart. An echocardiograph is the most useful tool to identify the source of a murmur, the likely cause of CHF, and a measurement of the hearts ability to pump blood.

Is Congestive Heart Failure Treatable

According to Dr. Justine A. Lee, there are treatment options available for CHF patients however, these treatments focus on helping the dogs maintain a good quality of life, as there is no cure for this disease.

Many CHF patients will require special care for the rest of their life, such as medications, prescription diet food, special exercise requirements, and ensuring their stress is minimized as much as possible.

Sudden Death Or Collapse

It may sound drastic, but in some cases, congestive heart failure can lead to sudden death or collapse. If your chihuahua shows any of the above symptoms, its essential to take them to the vet immediately.

Both the left-sided and right-sided CHF eventually result in tissue oxygenation exhaustion and heart failure.

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Can Congestive Heart Failure Be Treated Naturally

Many of the holistic veterinary treatments for CHF are not recommended by traditional veterinarians.

Traditional veterinary medicine treatments for CHF mainly involve medications, which may not be appealing to owners who want to care for their dog as naturally as possible.

If you are uncomfortable with the treatment options recommended by a traditional veterinarian, holistic veterinarians offer alternative treatments for CHF patients according to Whole Dog Journal.

Holistic veterinarians may recommend the following options:

  • Dietary changes, such as a raw diet.
  • Detoxification, involves removing as many toxins as possible from a dogs diet and environment.
  • Homeopathy and Energy, such as color therapy, crystals, and chakra.

One common thread among the holistic treatment approaches to CHF is dietary changes and keeping your dogs stress level low.

Owners of dogs with CHF should research and schedule examinations for second opinions if they have any doubts that their dog is not receiving the best possible treatment.

Common Types Of Imaging Used To Diagnose Heart Disease

What you need to know about Congestive Heart Failure in dogs ...

Many heart disorders are more common in certain breeds. For example, mitral regurgitation is more common in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, dilated cardiomyopathy is common in middle-aged Doberman Pinschers, and arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy usually affects Boxers. Older Miniature Schnauzers may develop specific types of arrhythmias, and tetralogy of Fallot is more common in young Wirehaired Fox Terriers. Knowledge of these and other breed associations with heart disease can often help your veterinarian make a diagnosis.

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Prognosis For Dogs With Heart Failure

The prognosis for a dog with heart failure depends on the severity of its heart condition and associated health issues. A dog with advanced heart failure, obesity, and diabetes is unlikely to rebound fully. However, if the dog’s heart is in the early stages of failure, and the owner is committed to improving the dog’s health and fitness, then chances are good that the dog may enjoy a happy and fairly active life for months or years.

Treatment Options For Heart Failure

Once your vet has diagnosed your dog with congestive heart failure with a physical exam and diagnostic imaging, there will be a few treatment options that can offer your dog more time.

These management options will only be a band aid for your dogs heart disease, but can offer them much needed comfort as the condition progresses.

Some of the most common treatment options for dogs with CHF include:

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Signs Of Heart Failure

Signs associated with heart failure depend on the causes of the heart failure and the heart chamber that is affected. With left-sided congestive heart failure, signs are associated with a backup of pressure in the vessels delivering blood to the left ventricle. This causes fluid to accumulate within the lungs . Coughing, difficulty breathing, and exercise intolerance are the most common signs. Many dogs with left-sided congestive heart failure faint due to lack of blood flow and oxygen to the brain. They may also have a low heart rate and low blood pressure and may collapse. Dogs with left-side congestive heart failure often breathe faster than healthy dogs. Your veterinarian may direct you to count the number of breaths your dog takes within a minute when it is sleeping or resting. This sleeping respiratory rate can then be regularly monitored to identify early heart failure and assess whether your dog is responding to treatment.

Right-sided congestive heart failure results in increased pressure in the vessels delivering blood to the right atrium and the bodys veins and capillaries. This may cause fluid to build up in the abdomen , the chest cavity, liver, and the limbs.

Myxomatous Mitral Valve Disease

My Dog Has Congestive Heart Failure Chihuahua

The most common acquired cardiac disease associated with development of pulmonary oedema is myxomatous mitral valve disease . Heart murmurs consistent with MMVD may be identified in 3.54% of all dogs examined in UK first opinion clinics , and the prevalence of heart murmurs in dogs, especially in small breed dogs, increases with age.

In one study, 24% of dogs aged nine to 12, and 37% of dogs aged 13 and over, were found to have murmurs consistent with MMVD and in some breeds, notably the Cavalier King Charles spaniel, prevalence in dogs older than eight years of age may become very high indeed.

However, mitral valve disease is typically characterised by a very long pre-clinical period, and only a minority of patients with asymptomatic MMVD in most longitudinal studies progress to a point where symptoms of congestive heart failure develop. Thus, the typical busy small animal clinician will encounter many dogs with heart murmurs consistent with MMVD who will not be in congestive heart failure. When patients with such murmurs present with cough, clinicians are presented with a diagnostic dilemma as to how relevant the finding of a heart murmur typical of MMVD may be.

Studies have shown that the presence of congestive heart failure is not significantly associated with coughing in dogs with MMVD, but that radiographic evidence of airway disease and left atrial enlargement is .

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What Treatments Are Available For Dogs With Congestive Heart Failure

During an acute congestive heart failure crisis, your vet will give your dog injections of various medications such as furosemide to help remove excess fluid from the body. They may also apply nitroglycerin ointment to help dilate the veins. Pimobendan is a pill that helps the heart contract better. Occasionally, dopamine or dobutamine are needed in severe cases. Sedatives or stress reducers are also often given to help your pup relax and breathe easier as the other medications start to take effect.

Long-term treatments to continue at home once your dog has been stabilized include:

  • Furosemide or spironolactone pills given multiple times per day to reduce fluid overload
  • Pimobendan to help the heart contract more efficiently
  • Enalapril or benazepril to reduce blood pressure
  • Appropriate medications to treat any arrhythmia that may be present
  • Low sodium diet!

What Causes Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs

There are a number of factors that can result in CHF. Some dogs are born with congenital heart defects that contribute to this condition, but they can take years to present themselves. Congenital heart disease is rare, accounting for about 5% of all canine heart disease.

Common congenital heart diseases include:

  • Mitral valve insufficiency . While mitral disease can be congenital, we typically see it develop more in middle or old age.

  • Dilated cardiomyopathy

  • Atrial septal defect

  • Patent ductus arteriosus or PDA

Dogs that are born with healthy hearts can develop heart disease during their lifetime. Like humans, dogs can develop health issues that can lead to CHF as they age. Other causes of CHF in dogs:

  • Heartworms: Heartworms can block heart valves, or even clog an entire heart chamber. See our article on heartworm preventative.

  • Hormones: The thyroid especially can affect the hearts function and performance. For example, a dog with hypothyroidism usually has a slower-than-normal heart rate.

  • Parvovirus: This virus can potentially infect the heart muscles, and can even cause acute heart failure in dogs.

  • Bacterial infections: Bacteria from the mouth can get into the bloodstream and attach to the heart valves, causing inflammation in the lining of the heart or in the valves.

  • Nutritional deficiency: A lack of vitamin E or selenium can cause damage to the heart muscles.

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Managing Your Dogs Congestive Heart Failure


Congestive heart failure can be a scary diagnosis to receive from your veterinarian. Sadly, many small breeds as well as some large breeds, are prone to developing this condition later in life. The good news is that with proper treatment and lifestyle management this diagnosis is containable. However, it’s important to recognize the symptoms of congestive heart failure in dogs so that you can begin treatment promptly, giving your beloved pup the best chance of a longer life.

Symptoms Of Heart Failure In Dogs

Chihuahua Congestive Heart Failure

Dogs with heart disease may be asymptomatic if the heart disease is mild enough to allow the heart and the rest of the body to compensate. However, if heart disease progresses without treatment, signs of heart failure will develop.

Heart failure can affect one or both sides of the heart, with some symptoms specific to the side that is damaged. While many of these symptoms can indicate other conditions, even the subtlest sign may indicate impending heart failure or congestive heart failure in a dog.

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What Are The First Signs Of Congestive Heart Failure In A Chihuahua

The first signs of CHF may be subtle and easily missed. They can include exercise intolerance, coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. As the condition progresses, the symptoms will become more severe. Chihuahuas with CHF may eventually experience heart failure, leading to sudden death. If you notice these signs in your chihuahua, it is important to seek veterinary care immediately.

Is Congestive Heart Failure Contagious

Most of the conditions that contribute to CHF are not contagious.

However, Heartworm disease and tick-borne diseases may cause CHF to develop, as they negatively impact a dogs heart, and these diseases are contagious.

Even though they are contagious, there are preventative options available, such as monthly preventatives and the Lyme disease vaccination.

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Oxygen Therapy For Chf In Dogs

Dogs with left-sided heart failure, or those with significant fluid in the lungs, may not be able to get enough oxygen from their lungs to their blood stream. In such cases, a dog may benefit from oxygen supplementation.

Your dog may be placed in an oxygen cage, or provided oxygen via tube through the nose. Alternatively, direct airflow toward the face may be provided .

In severe cases, a dog may need to be intubated to administer oxygen or even mechanical ventilation , but this is associated with a poor prognosis.

Conventional Treatment For Congestive Heart Failure

My Dog Has Congestive Heart Failure Chihuahua (Update 1)

Conventional vets typically treat CHF with prescription medicines. This may be diuretics, which cause the kidneys to excrete extra water to clear out the excess from the lungs or abdomen. The problem is that this puts extra pressure on the kidneys, potentially harming them.

They may also prescribe drugs that make the heart muscle pump more strongly. The problem here is that these drugs sometimes put extra pressure on the valves and can cause more damage. Vets may also prescribe vasodilators to reduce the blood pressure. They open the blood vessels to allow blood to flow more easily.

Iavoid these medicines until theyre a dog needs them for palliative care.

But if your dog already has congestive heart failure, what natural options exist?

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How Can I Help My Dog With Heart Failure

Encourage an activity level that does not cause excessive panting, shortness of breath, or weakness. Your pet should not be forced to continue exercise with he/she tires. Contact your veterinarian if your pet experiences collapse or sudden weakness during activity or a dramatic decrease in overall exercise ability.

Do Dogs Have Heart Attacks

In humans a heart attack usually refers to myocardial infarction . Myocardial infarction refers to death of the cells in an area of the heart muscle or myocardium. Cell death is usually due to oxygen deprivation caused by obstruction of the coronary blood vessels that supply blood to the heart muscles. Heart attacks are rare in dogs but unexpected and sudden death in dogs diagnosed with any form of heart disease is possible.

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When Heart Failure In Chihuahuas Is Suspected The Heart Spasm Caused By The Increased Pumping Function Of The Atria Will Cause Chest Compressions And Accelerated Heartbeat

This causes a drop in blood pressure, which leads to weakness in the muscle lining. When a Chihuahua is suspected of having congestive heart failure due to an insufficient supply of blood to the heart, immediate action should be taken. Otherwise, the cat is in imminent danger of dying.

The first thing that you should do if you think your Chihuahua is suffering from congestive heart failure is to take him to the vet. You must know the exact cause of the malfunctioning heart valves before you treat the problem. A medical professional will be able to give you an accurate diagnosis of what is wrong with the valves. Once you have a good idea of what is wrong, then you can find out how to properly treat the problem.

The cause of failed heart valves can be caused by a variety of factors. One such factor is congenital heart disease, wherein the birth canal of the babys heart does not close properly during the birthing process. If such defects are present in the fetus, they can cause the passage of insufficient blood through the heart.

Recovery And Management Of Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs

What you need to know about Congestive Heart Failure in dogs

Its possible for a dog with CHF to live a happy life. But proper diet, monitored exercise, medications, and good overall care are necessary. Regular check-ups are important for monitoring a dogs condition and assessing the effectiveness of treatments. Any change in health should be addressed immediately.

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What Causes Congestive Heart Failure

The most common cause of congestive heart failure in dogs is congenital heart defects, meaning that it’s a genetic condition that can’t be prevented. Many small breeds have a genetic propensity toward CHF, says Love to Know, including toy poodles, Pomeranians, dachshunds, and cavalier King Charles spaniels. Small dogs in general tend to be more prone to developing CHF because the heart valves tend to degenerate more than in larger breeds. However, some large breeds, particularly giant breeds such as St. Bernards, Newfoundlands, and Great Danes are prone to developing CHF due to dilated heart muscles. It’s important to understand that congenital CHF typically manifests late in a dog’s life and that these dogs can live many years seemingly healthy and happy before symptoms begin to appear.

CHF can also develop in a heart that’s been weakened by other heart conditions, so it’s important to do what you can to prevent heart disease from occurring in your pet, including preventing obesity and providing heartworm prevention.

Establish A Relationship With A Local Cardiologist

Consider referral to a cardiologist, when available. Clinical evaluation by a cardiologist can be beneficial to establish the diagnosis, develop a comprehensive treatment and re-evaluation plan, fine-tune therapy, and keep up with current guidelines, especially when the diagnosis is difficult or therapy ineffective.

Guidelines for the staging, diagnosis, and management of degenerative valve disease were established by a committee of cardiologists and published by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine in 2009 . Additional information from clinical trials continues to become available.

Key to Terms

ACE = angiotensin-converting enzyme CHF = congestive heart failure DCM = dilated cardiomyopathy DMVD = degenerative mitral valve disease

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What Can You Do To Make Things Easier For Your Pet

If your doggo has been diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure and the disease has progressed to the later stages, then your vet will, in all likelihood, discuss your dogs condition with you.

If the treatment is no longer helpful for your furbaby and your doggo is in pain, then it becomes vital that you think about your dogs well-being and decide about putting it down. But, euthanasia isnt about making your pup go through more pain. The idea behind euthanasia is to make things easier for your doggo.

And, yes, there are things you can do to make your dog more comfortable. You see, calling a cab and dragging your furbaby down to the vets clinic can cause your dog unnecessary anxiety and stress.

Now, some vets specialize in at-home euthanasia. So, your doggo can be around its family members and around all the things that it is familiar with.

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