There Are Different Symptoms Depending On What Side Of A Dogs Heart Is Affected
As your dog gets older, it’s normal to prepare for new changes in their health. You might swap out their hard kibble for a softer version, take walks a little slower or even research ailments that are specific to adult dogs â like heart disease, which can lead to more serious consequences as it progresses.
One potential outcome of heart disease’s later stages is congestive heart failure . And while anything to do with a dogâs heart might sound overwhelming, knowing all about it will help guide informed conversations with your veterinarian.
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.
Caring For A Dog With Heart Disease
A heart problem is obviously a serious health issue to have. If your heart isnt doing well then its hard for anything else to work well either. In the early stages, your dog may well feel fine and they can compensate pretty well for a mild loss in function. Medication can make a great difference to the symptoms as they begin to develop, again especially early on. The most significant signs are likely to be breathing problems with a cough and a general lack of energy.
Because the body is working much harder than it used to, just circulating blood and breathing, many dogs will lose weight. In addition to burning more calories their appetite can suffer and they may not want a large, full stomach as this can make it harder to breathe. They are likely to spend much more time resting. Sleep can be disturbed because lying down can trigger coughing, especially noticeable at night time. Some dogs will develop a distended abdomen because of the fluid they are retaining and this can be uncomfortable.
Dogs dont have heart attacks in the way that humans do but some dogs with heart disease will have a crisis where the heart dramatically becomes overwhelmed and they will die suddenly and quite quickly. Other dogs may arrive at a point where they are finding it so difficult to do the bare minimum and are no longer taking any pleasure in life. At this point its necessary for us to intervene and consider dog euthanasia.
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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.
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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
Conflict Of Interest Declaration
Bruce W. KeeneConsulted for Boehringer Ingelheim and CEVA Animal Health.
Clarke E. AtkinsConsulted for Boehringer Ingelheim and CEVA Animal Health.
John D. Bonagura Consulted for Boehringer Ingelheim, IDEXX and CEVA Animal Health.
Philip R. FoxConsulted for Boehringer Ingelheim, IDEXX and CEVA Animal Health.
Jens HäggströmConsulted for Boehringer Ingelheim, IDEXX and CEVA Animal Health.
Virginia Luis FuentesConsulted for Boehringer Ingelheim and CEVA Animal Health.
John E. RushConsulted for Boehringer Ingelheim and IDEXX.
Rebecca StepienConsulted for Boehringer Ingelheim and IDEXX.
Masami UechiConsulted for Boehringer Ingelheim and TERUMO Corporation.
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Treatment Of Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs
Treatment depends on the underlying heart disease, along with the severity. There is usually no cure for CHF, but there are effective treatments to ensure a good quality of life.
If the cause of CHF is a congenital abnormality like a PDA, surgical correction may help to reverse heart failure if performed in a timely fashion.
The goal when treating CHF is to reduce fluid buildup and maximize the amount of blood being pumped to the lungs and the rest of the body.
Request A Hospice Evaluation
The primary physician may recommend hospice when the time is right. But as anyone who has faced a serious illness knows, patients and family members often must act as their own advocates to receive the care they need and deserve.
You, your loved one or your trusted physician may request an evaluation to see if hospice is an appropriate option for care.
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What Are Treatment Options
If you take your dog in for treatment there are many different options depending on your pets particular diagnosis. Your dog will get a treatment plan from a veterinary cardiologist.
The most common treatments for congestive heart failure in dogs available are:
- Symptomatic support and care
- Removal of fluids, from the chest or from the abdomen
With quality care, many dogs do well with medications and treatment. Treatment, however, is about keeping your dog in a good quality of life, not about keeping your emotions intact.
There is no cure for heart disease. As an owner, you have to be aware of your dogs feelings and abilities and be prepared for when it comes time for humane euthanasia if necessary.
How Long Can Dogs Live With Congestive Heart Failure
In general, dogs that are diagnosed with congestive heart failure can live anywhere from 6 months to 1 1/2 to 2 years. Other factors that affect how long a dog can live with CHF include:
- The age of the dog
- The severity of their condition
- Any medications the dog is taking
- How responsive the dog is to treatment
- Any underlying medical conditions, such as kidney disease or pneumonia
There is no cure for heart failure in dogs, Dr. Klein says. Early detection and proper management are crucial to improving a dogs prognosis and quality of life.
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The Signs Of A Dog Dying Of Heart Failure
If your dog is in the final stages of their heart failure, you may be curious about the typical signs of a dog suffering in their CHF.
To help you make the best decision for your furry friend, lets list some of the signs of a dog dying from their heart failure.
- Frequent coughing
- Coughing up foam, or bloody foam
- Labored breathing
- Weakness, or inability to exercise
- Fainting episodes
- Blue, purple, or muddy gums
- Constant panting
If your dog is experiencing any of the above symptoms, it may be time to discuss quality of life with your veterinarian.
How To Treat Heart Disease And Chf In Dogs
Unfortunately, there is no cure for CHF. But it is a manageable health issue, especially when caught early. Your vet will put your dog on a specific treatment plan that is specifically catered to them, depending on which stage of CHF your dog is experiencing. Here are some of the ways the disease can be treated.
ACE inhibitors. Common angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors are enalapril, benazepril, and captopril. These prescription medications can help reduce blood pressure and improve heart function. That can relieve stress to the heart while helping slow the progression of CHF.
Diuretics. Diuretics get the kidneys going, which can help get rid of fluid buildup in the lungs and belly. They will cause your dog to have to pee much more than usual, as it pulls fluid out of your dogs body. Make sure to take them outside as often as you can, or allow them to have easy access to use the bathroom. Otherwise, you may notice new urinary accidents in the home. This medication often referred to as a water pill, will also cause your dog to require more water intake as they lose fluids by urinating.
Vasodilators. These types of medications can help relax blood vessels, which decreases pressure on the heart. Your dogs cardiologist might pair vasodilators with a positive inotropic drug, which increases the force that your dogs heartbeats to help increase blood flow to the lungs and body.
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How Do You Treat Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs
The treatment for congestive heart failure in dogs includes medications to decrease fluid that has accumulated in your dogs lungs. Right-sided heart failure may require manual removal fluid from the belly every few weeks by your veterinarian.
Some medications may be given to help improve the function of the heart. The most common medications used to treat heart failure include:
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What Is Congestive Heart Failure
Congestive heart failure is a term that refers to the heart’s inability to pump adequate blood to the body. There are many causes of CHF in dogs. The two most common causes are:
- mitral valve insufficiency . MVI is a leaky mitral valve, which is the valve between the left atrium and the left ventricle.
- dilated cardiomyopathy .
For further information on these specific causes, please see the handouts “Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Dogs” and “Mitral Valve Disease in Dogs”.
Clinical signs of CHF vary depending on whether the dog has left- or right-sided heart failure.
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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.
What Are The Stages Of Chf In Dogs
Veterinarians often refer to the condition of a dogâs CHF in four stages, which can be categorized from A to D, Dr. McCullough explains.
A dog with a predisposition or high risk of developing heart failure but has no heart disease or symptoms is in Stage A.
In Stage B, thereâs structural evidence of heart disease, but a dog isnât showing symptoms. Itâs broken into two substages: In B1, your dog doesnât have heart enlargement, while in B2, they do.
In later stages of CHF, symptoms begin to show. Stage C indicates that a dog has symptoms of heart disease, and Stage D is met when your dog has ongoing symptoms that are unresponsive to therapy.
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Lifestyle And Diet Changes Are Also Key For Managing Chf In Dogs
Your vet will be able to tailor your dogs medicine to their needs, but meds are just part of the equation. Youll also want to ask your veterinarian about lifestyle changes that can help your pup live a full life while managing their congestive heart failure.
Vet visits. For starters, youll likely need to schedule more frequent check-ups. During these visits, your vet can track the progression of your pups CHF, and you can discuss any changes that may need to be made to their treatment plan.
Low stress. Its a good idea to reduce stress at home and try not to over-exert your pet. This could mean keeping them off the stairs, taking shorter walks, etc.
Diet. In the earliest stages, a diet that has lower levels of sodium in your dogs diet can help slow the progression of CHF and help eliminate excess stress on the heart. CHF isnt really preventable, but you can make sure youre not feeding your dog a grain-free diet, which has been linked to heart disease in dogs.
Supplements. In these early stages, specific supplements and antioxidants might help. While those supplements can generally be found over the counter without a prescription, make sure to consult with your vet before starting your dog on any supplement regimen. Although supplements and nutrition can help to some degree, ultimately your dog will need to be started on lifelong medications to help slow down the progression of CHF.
Commone Causes Of Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs
There are many reasons why your dog may be suffering from congestive heart failure.
Some of the most common ones include old age, infections, injuries, poor diet, and lack of exercise.
Some breeds are believed to be predisposed to the condition due to genetics.
Some of these include:
- Difficult, rapid, or abnormal breathing
- Blue or gray gums
Most dogs with CHF cough more at night when trying to rest or early in the morning before moving.
The cough often eases or lessens when the dog is active as the body is better able to pump the blood through the system.
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Discover Delicious Food Your Dog Deserves
A failing heart will become much larger than normal too, putting physical pressure on the lungs and windpipe as they become squashed inside your dogs chest. This is why most pups suffering from heart failure cough a lot, particularly at night or when they are picked up.
Because the heart isnt able to pump enough blood around the body, there wont be enough oxygen carried around to the other organs and tissues. In some cases, a dogs other internal organs can suffer from damage due to a lack of oxygen.
Should I Put My Dog Down With Congestive Heart Failure
The biggest problem with congestive heart failure is that there is no cure. When a dog has CHF, the veterinarians goal is to keep the dog comfortable as long as possible. In some cases, however, a dogs quality of life may be so poor that its simply not worth it to keep him.
When a dog has congestive heart failure , it can be hard for them to breathe and may fail to respond to even basic commands. Its just not in his best interests to keep him alive any longer. Ultimately, this is something your veterinarian will have to decide based on information such as the dogs age and activity level and the degree of difficulty he has with breathing.
The most important factor in determining life expectancy is the severity of the clinical signs. In some cases, dogs may only have mild coughing and exercise intolerance, while other dogs may have difficulty breathing and fainting episodes. If a dogs condition is caught early, it can be managed and treated with medication to allow for a good quality of life for years. However, if a dogs condition has progressed to include serious clinical signs such as fainting or difficulty breathing, then his prognosis is considered guarded at best.
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