Signs And Symptoms Of Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs
The signs and symptoms associated with CHF may vary, depending on the underlying heart disease and whether the right or left side of the heart is affected. In some cases, symptoms will be the same regardless of side.
These signs should be taken seriously and addressed with your veterinarian at first notice:
Change in gum and/or tongue color to a bluish gray
Increased heart rate
Crackling sound when listening to the lungs
Both right-sided and left-sided CHF ultimately lead to oxygen depletion in the tissues, and eventual heart failure.
How Is Heart Failure In Dogs Diagnosed
The vet will check your dogs medical history and may conduct a physical exam. They will also run special diagnostic tests to definitively confirm that your dog is suffering from heart failure.
Here are the most common exams for heart failure in dogs:
1. Blood and Urine Testing
Heart diseases can affect the liver and kidneys of affected dogs. Both tests will help determine the type of medications appropriate to use on your dog. This also verifies if your dog has a taurine deficiency.
2. Chest X-Rays
This exam uses low radiation levels to acquire imaging of your dogs heart and lungs. Chest x-rays help the vet check the size and shape of his heart. It also aids in detecting fluid build-up in the lungs.
This exam makes use of ultrasound waves to observe the size and thickness of each heart chamber. The vet will also be able to note if there are abnormalities in the hearts contractions.
It measures the electrical signals from your dogs heart. This test aids in confirming if there are any issues in his heart rate and rhythm such as heart murmurs.
5. Endomyocardial Biopsy
This is an invasive procedure done to gauge your dogs L-carnitine levels. It will figure out if he has L-carnitine deficiency.
6. Heartworm Antigen Test
Heartworms are one of the most common causes of heart failure in dogs. This type of test will examine your dogs blood to find out if your pooch has or has had heartworms.
7. Holter Monitor
Diagnosing Chf In Dogs
The veterinarian will need your dogs complete medical history along with a complete physical exam to diagnose CHF. An accurate diagnosis will require a series of tests:
Blood and urine tests: Dogs with heart disease often have problems with their liver and kidneys.
Chest x-rays: These reveal the size and shape of the heart, as well as any changes in the lungs .
Electrocardiogram : This test detects abnormalities in the electrical activity of the heart .
Ultrasound : This tests examines the size, shape, and movement of the heart. It can also determine whether the heart is pumping efficiently. This diagnostic test should be performed only by a board-certified veterinary cardiologist .
Heartworm antigen test: This test detects abnormal proteins produced by heartworms.
CHF in dogs is broken down into four stages. Stages one and two present few symptoms, and owners may be unaware something is wrong until the condition has progressed to a later stage.
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Prevent Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs
So what can you do to help prevent CHF?
The first thing is to feed your dog a top quality, vital, raw, whole food diet. Add in blueberries .
Consider giving green tea as a regular supplement, but be sure to steep it in cold water. If you do this, you wont extract the caffeine, but you will get all the lovely antioxidants. Use a tsp of organic green tea per cup of water, and give about a cup a day for every 40 lbs of dog, 3-4 days a week.
Appropriate cardiovascular exercise is very, very important. You need to get your dog aerobic in his exercise, without stressing the heart.
Have regular checkups and be sure to have your vet check your dogs blood pressure, as this can be an early red flag!
Omega-3 fatty acids are critically important for cardiovascular health. Rather than giving fish oil, which can easily become rancid, feed whole fatty fish. Sardines or mackerel are a good choice.
Coenzyme Q10 is one of the best supplements there is for supporting a healthy heart and cardiovascular system. Assume the recommended dose is for a 150 lb human and adjust for your dogs weight.
CHF is a serious condition, but there are holistic options for treatment. And, even better than that, there are natural ways to help prevent it in the first place.
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Do Dogs Have Heart Attacks
Although it is very rare, the unexpected and sudden death of dogs from heart disease is possible. Some of the main risk factors that increase a dogs chances of having a heart attack include obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and serious bacterial infections.
If you believe your dog is having a heart attack take them to the nearest emergency care facility as soon as possible. There is a version of CPR that can be performed on dogs, however, it requires special training to do it properly. If done incorrectly, CPR can result in further injuries to your dog and delay getting proper medical attention from a veterinarian.
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Can You Prevent Heart Failure In Dogs
Most forms of heart failure in dogs cannot be prevented. Heart failure from heartworm disease can be prevented. An annual heartworm testing as well as administering monthly heartworm prevention to your dog will reduce the risk of heart failure .
In addition, do not have your dog on a feed grain-free diet. There are possible correlations between dilated cardiomyopathy and feeding grain-free diets, so until we know more information, we recommend that you avoid feeding your dog grain-free diets.
Dog Heart Disease Treatment
Treating heart failure is essential to improve muscle strength, control possible arrhythmia, and maintain normal blood pressure and adequate blood circulation.
It is also imperative to manage to heal excess fluids from the lungs, chest, and abdomen.
Again, treatment depends on your dogs specific condition.
If he is in respiratory distress, your dog must be hospitalized urgently.
He will then be placed under oxygen to be stabilized.
If the heart failure is due to mitral damage, your dog may be treated with Pimobendane , a positive inotrope that strengthens the contraction of the heart and improves blood circulation.
Prescribing a diuretic like furosemide significantly reduces fluid buildup in the lungs.
Finally, an ACE, an angiotensin-converting enzyme, like Enalapril is added to relax blood vessels and reduce hypertension while helping the heart to pump more efficiently.
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Diet And Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs
In recent years, veterinarians have seen an uptick of canine dilated cardiomyopathy, especially in breeds not previously identified as being at higher risk for this disease.
The majority of those dogs were eating new or unusual diets, Dr. Lefbom says. Initially, it seemed the diet problem was from foods that were grain-free. Now it appears that dog foods high in legumes may be causing this problem. Research is still underway to find the exact cause.
Summary Of Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs
Congestive Heart Failure in dogs is fairly common, affecting 75% of senior dogs. While there is no cure, medication and lifestyle changes can help manage the condition. As its not always easy to detect in its early stages, prevention is important proper diet, exercise, and weight maintenance are key for canine cardiovascular health. Be aware of the signs and symptoms so you can seek help as soon as you suspect CHF could be an issue, and stay up to date on your annual vet visits.
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Treatment Of Cardiovascular Disease In Dogs
Treatment of cardiovascular disease should be specific for the type of disease. Some defects can be repaired or corrected with surgery, while other conditions can be managed with medical therapy using one or a combination of drugs. In dogs with congestive heart failure, a low-sodium diet may be recommended to help eliminate excess fluid in the body.
In general, the goals of treatment are to minimize damage to the heart muscle, control the accumulation of fluids in the lungs, improve circulation, regulate the heart rate and rhythm, ensure that there is enough oxygen in the blood, and minimize the risk of blood clot formation. In heartworm disease, the mature heartworms and larvae should be killed. Ultimately, the goals are achieved when treatment resolves the signs, the breathing and heart rates are normal at rest, and the dog has a good quality of life.
What Clinical Signs Should I Expect
The most common clinical sign of congestive heart failure is persistent coughing accompanied by difficulty breathing. This is due mainly to pulmonary edema or the accumulation of fluid in the lungs. The enlarged heart will also push against the trachea, causing irritation that can induce a cough.
“The most common clinical sign of congestive heart failure is persistent coughing accompanied by difficulty breathing.”
Many dogs with CHF will tire out more easily, have reduced stamina, and do not engage in playing or walking as they once did. Coughing when at rest or sleeping, excessive panting, persistent loss of appetite, a swollen belly, and pale or bluish gums are also signs associated with heart failure. The dog will develop generalized weight loss and muscle wasting due to the effects of CHF on other body systems. If any of these signs develop in a pet with a heart murmur, notify your veterinarian immediately.
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Preventing Dog Heart Disease
There is no surefire way to prevent heart disease in dogs, especially since several common types are congenital. But you can take steps to help your dog live a healthy life.
Its always important to feed your pooch a healthy diet that includes Taurine and Omega-3 Fatty Acids . Exercise is also a key part of having a healthy dog. While every dog requires exercise, if your pal has been diagnosed with heart disease, make sure to limit strenuous activity and carefully monitor your pooch afterward.
If you have a breed thats prone to heart disease, be vigilant and aware of the symptoms that accompany heart disease in dogs. The sooner you catch a potential symptom, the better the prognosis is for treatment.
Causes Of Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs
There are many possible causes of congestive heart failure in dogs but the most common is myxomatous mitral valve disease , also called chronic mitral valve disease, degenerative mitral valve disease, mitral insufficiency, or endocardiosis.
The mitral valve, also known as the bicuspid or left atrioventricular valve, is on the left side of the heart and acts as the doorway between the left atrium and the left ventricle. MMVD occurs when the doorway fails to close, which results in blood leaking through this valve. Over time, it results in left-sided congestive heart failure due to a decreased ability for the left side of the heart to pump oxygen-rich blood to the body. The cause of mitral valve disease is unknown, but there does seem to be a strong genetic component. Many small-breed dogs have a genetic predisposition for mitral valve disease as a cause of congestive heart failure.
In large-breed dogs, the most common inherited form of heart disease is dilated cardiomyopathy , characterized by the heart muscle becoming weak and unable to properly contract. This causes the heart to dilate. Some examples of dogs predisposed to DCM include Doberman Pinschers, Boxers and Great Danes.
Other causes of CHF in dogs include:
Heart valve disease
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Prognosis Of Dogs With Congestive Heart Failure
The development of heart failure represents a specific measurable point in the development of heart disease. For DMVD, the average survival of dogs with CHF is 9 months.5 However, within survival times in this group vary widely, with some patients living over 3 years.5 Survival in dogs with DCM is similar.16
Parameters that can help stratify risk by suggesting poorer prognosis include large left atrial and left ventricular size and high mitral E wave velocity.
When owners are questioned, it is evident that most would trade some longevity for improved quality of life. With a logical approach, heart failure can be controlled for many months with a good quality of life in most dogs.
Signs Of Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs
The signs of early congestive heart failure in dogs might not be noticeable at first, especially to the untrained eye. It could be as small as the dog not wanting to go for walks anymore or not go up and down the stairs as frequently. As heart disease progresses, you might notice light coughing, especially in the morning, or see that your dog is breathing faster, even when resting.
Reluctance to move around could also be signs of aging or arthritis. Even little changes in your dogs behavior or activity are worth checking out with a visit to the veterinarian.
In the middle stages of heart failure, the dog may start having trouble breathing during exercise or may not be sleeping through the night without coughing, Dr. Lefbom says. The more severe stage of heart failure requires emergency care for a pet that is truly struggling to breathe.
If you know your dog has heart disease, ask your veterinarian which worsening signs you need to look out for and bring to their attention.
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How To Prevent Congestive Heart Failure
While congestive heart failure cannot always be prevented in dogs with heart disease, maintaining proper veterinary care is an important step for owners to help keep dogs healthy. Many treatment options are available for various types of heart disease that can prolong your dog’s life or keep CHF from developing. If your dog does not have heart disease, take preventative measures by providing a nutritious diet and plenty of opportunities for exercise. Always consult your veterinarian to determine healthy meal plans, ideal activity levels, and any regular testing that should be performed based on your dog’s medical history.
Can It Be Inherited
Your dog can in fact have inherited his congenital heart disease diagnosis, and it can be prevalent in some breeds.
Sometimes dogs can live with these types of heart disease for many years or it may show up late in life.
- Subaortic stenosis
- Ventricular septal defects
- Persistent ductus arteriosis
Dogs that have congestive heart failure and are diagnosed with one of these congenital heart defects veterinarians will suggest that they be spayed or neutered to prevent spreading the defect within the breed population.
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How To Recognize The Symptoms Of Pulmonary Edema In Dogs
Your dog appears weak, coughs frequently, and his breathing is accelerated.You hear crackling sounds with each breath and he seems to be gasping for air with his mouth open.He also presents an intolerance of any effort.
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Stages Of Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs
While there are four stages to classify dogs with heart disease, the last two refer specifically to stages of dogs in congestive heart failure. According to the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine classification, these are stages C and D.
- Stage A is a dog that is of a breed or has another disease that predisposes the dog to heart disease, but may not have any change to the heart.
- Stage B is a dog that has a heart murmur on physical exam, but there are no structural changes to the heart and no signs and symptoms of congestive heart failure in these dogs.
- Stage C is a dog with signs of congestive heart failure or is currently in congestive heart failure.
- Stage D is a dog that has congestive heart failure that is not responding to treatment.
How Long Can Dogs Live With Heart Failure
The prognosis for heart failure in dogs is poor. On average, dogs with this condition can survive for an average of 612 months.
But early detection and treatment of heart failure in dogs can extend the lives of affected canines. Some dogs were able to live for 3 years after being diagnosed with heart failure.
Four Stages Of Congestive Heart Failure
There are four stages of congestive heart failure. Different symptoms and clinical signs are more common to specific stages.
Stage One. This is the very beginning of deterioration. During this stage, you probably wont be able to tell your pet has CHF based on shown symptoms. However, a vet may notice something during a checkup, such as hearing a heart murmur when listening to your dogs chest with their stethoscope, or while treating another issue that could help indicate CHF in this early stage.
Stage Two. At this point, you may start to see minor symptoms such as panting, shortness of breath, slowed respiratory rate, and fatigue. If you notice these signs over the course of days or weeks, its definitely a good idea to call your vet to set up an appointment.
Stage Three. A dog experiencing this more advanced stage of CHF will likely show heightened levels of fatigue, chronic coughing and/or wheezing, and breathing difficulties.
Stage Four. This is the final stage of CHF, where your dog might find breathing hard even while resting. You may also notice more alarming symptoms such as swollen limbs, a distended abdomen, or even blue-tinged gums, all signs of heart failure.
The earlier you catch CHF, the better your dogs outlook is regarding treatment options and quality of life.