Symptoms Of Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs
The standard symptoms of heart failure in dogs will vary based on the side of the heart that is affected.
While we often hear of the typical heart failure cough, there are many more signs to be aware of.
Some of the most common symptoms of CHF in dogs include:
- Elevated respiratory rate, even when resting
- Easily winded after activity
- Blue tinged or muddy gums
- Distended abdomen
If your dog is experiencing any of the above symptoms, its best to contact your veterinarian immediately for further care.
Degenerative Mitral Valve Disease
DMVD is the most common acquired heart disease in dogs. Common clinical signs and pathophysiology include:
- Heart murmur due to mitral valve regurgitation, leading to left atrial and left ventricular dilatation
- Progressive dilatation of the left ventricle, ultimately leading to systolic dysfunction
- Significant left atrial enlargement, leading to atrial arrhythmias
- Development of pulmonary hypertension, which can contribute to clinical signs, such as respiratory distress and syncope.
Not all dogs with DMVD will develop heart failure, characterized by pulmonary edema . In general, dogs with heart enlargement are at greater risk for heart failure, but only 30% of dogs with asymptomatic DMVD develop clinical signs and require heart failure therapy.
General Cost Of Treatment For Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs
Cost of treatment for CHF in dogs can vary considerably, depending on the severity of clinical signs.
In a dog with mild or subtle clinical signs, costs typically include:
- Initial diagnostic testing : $1,000-$1,500
- Monthly medications: $50-$150/month
- Long-term monitoring : $500-$1,000/year
In a dog that sees a veterinarian in crisis, costs may be higher:
- Initial diagnostic testing : $1,000-$1,500
- Hospitalization/stabilization: $1,000-$3,000
- Long-term monitoring : $500-$1,000/year
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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:
Be A Detective: Ask Detailed Questions
Take time to gather information from the patients history and physical examination, including details that may help determine whether the dog has heart failure and why it may have occurred.
Does the history support heart disease and heart failure?
- Is there a history of heart disease in a relative or littermate?
- Is congenital or acquired heart disease more likely? For instance, in a middle-aged to older dog, is the murmur a relatively new finding, suggesting an acquired disease, or has it been present since the dog was a puppy, suggesting undiagnosed congenital heart disease? See Consider These Cases .
- Does the history of clinical sign progression support heart failure? Findings from the history that support heart failure are listed in Table 1. These findings, while not specific for heart failure, suggest that pulmonary edema may be present, especially when combined with signalment and abnormal findings on physical examination.
Does the physical examination support heart disease and heart failure?
- A left apical systolic murmur is a characteristic finding in dogs with mitral regurgitation from DMVD, and a loud murmur is more likely with advanced disease. See Consider These Cases .
FIGURE 2. Lead II electrocardiogram demonstrating sinus tachycardia with a regular rhythm and heart rate of 175 beats/min in a dog with CHF .
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Signs Of Heart Failure In Dogs
As you know, the heart is the most essential organ in the body.
Its role is to pump blood through the arteries to distribute it to each organ.
In short, a closed circuit that allows the body to function properly.
The heart is a muscle that is made up of four chambers:
- the left atrium
- the right ventricle
- the left ventricle
The right atrium receives the oxygen-deprived blood and sends it to the right ventricle which propels it to the lungs for it to oxygen again.
It then returns to the left atrium which sends it to the left ventricle to propel it to the rest of the body through the aorta.
The atrium and left ventricle are separated from the right atrium and ventricle by valves that prevent blood from deviating from its path.
The problem is often here when your dog gets cardiac as he gets older.
These valves degenerate and lose their original shape.
Depending on the affected valve, the dog may have left heart failure if the mitral valve is affected or right heart failure if the tricuspid valve has failed.
When blood is pumped from one chamber to another, the defective valve tends to push blood back into the starting chamber.
And since the circulatory circuit is closed, this failure causes pressure in the chambers which leads to increased pressure in the muscles of the heart.
The heart, therefore, begins to pump harder to keep sending blood through the body, which explains the congestion of heart failure.
But the heart can overcome this increase for a while.
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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Final Thoughts On Heart Failure In Dogs
Heart failure in dogs is a serious condition that requires extensive care.
Your veterinarian can help you through this process but eventually your dog will pass away with this condition.
Be sure you watch for the signs of heart failure to really understand where your pup may be in this process.
Review the information that we discussed above so you can better understand the stages of your dogs condition going forward.
My name is Amber. I am a dedicated animal lover that turned my passion into my career. I am a Licensed Vet Tech with 12 years of experience in veterinary medicine, but I recently took my career online to help spread accurate information on animal care. With how vast the online world is, I have a strong desire to ensure that the reader always walks away with helpful pet advice. With the experience Ive gained from my time in this field, I have been able to travel the world, offering my services to as many animal rescues as I can find. If I am not at my laptop, or back home visiting family, you can find me somewhere in the world, cuddling every furry friend that I can find! More About Us
How Do You Diagnose Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs
The diagnosis of canine congestive heart failure involves a variety of diagnostic tests that are performed under the supervision of a qualified vet. This allows you to get a proper treatment plan for your dog, while also learning which of the congestive heart failure in dogs stages is your pup going through at the given moment.
In order to diagnose your dog with CHF, your vet needs to hold a physical examination. This allows them to see evident signs that are associated with CHF. This includes the discovery of symptoms such as a heart murmur, noticeable abnormal breathing patterns, and irregular rhythm of the heart.
If your vet suspects CHF, they may move forward to the next step of diagnostic procedures. These approaches include the following tests:2
- Imaging Tests. With the use of X-ray and ultrasound, your vet can detect your dogs heart size and congestion, while also examining any fluid buildup in other organs such as the lungs.
- Echocardiography . This test monitors the heartbeat patterns and allows your vet to determine the occurrence of any irregularities.
- Lab Tests. These blood and urine tests determine other issues that could be causing challenges for your dog, such as heartworms.
- Heart Monitor. This device monitors your dogs heart rate over the course of 24-48 hours to determine any irregularities.
Once your vet has all the findings at hand, they are able to outline which of the following four stages are most related to your dogs CHF condition.2
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Life Expectancy Of Heart Failure In Dogs
Unfortunately, there is no cure for congestive heart failure in dogs.
Medical management can be effective in offering a dog more time, and making their life more comfortable as their disease progresses.
Though there is no known cure for CHF, daily medication and lifestyle changes can add significant time to their life.
If your dog has been diagnosed in the early stages of their heart failure, they may have anywhere from 1 to 3 years.
Early detection along with proper medical care can significantly improve a dogs prognosis.
However, if your dog is diagnosed with CHF when they have begun to display serious symptoms, their time may be limited.
These pups typically have a life expectancy of 1-6 months, and will need to be monitored closely for any sign of suffering.
Prognosis For Dogs With Congestive Heart Failure
This is a progressive disease, and new problems and symptoms may arise in the future. For example, the return of fluid in the lungs, followed by lethargy and sudden collapse, can occur.
Bruiser is slower than he was prior to being diagnosed. He also experiences gastrointestinal upset from time to time. In general, though, hes doing very well and just had a check-up with his cardiologist.
With appropriate medical therapy, fortunately, most dogs feel good during treatment and experience a good quality of life during and after.
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Progressive Symptoms Of Chf In Dogs
In contrast to the long time lag between Class I and Class II symptoms the illness progresses quickly from Class III to Class IV, so a dog that seemed healthy, active and symptom-free, may suddenly enter a critical phase where the condition requires extensive medical and surgical treatment to manage in order to preserve the life of the dog.
If you notice any of these telltale signs & symptoms of congestive heart failure, make sure to have your pet examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Diagnosing Heart Failure In Dogs
The vet will probably want to rule out heartworms, and in addition to blood and urine tests, may order a chest x-ray and an ultrasound scan of the heart called an echocardiogram. An electrocardiogram that measures your dog’s heart rhythm can also be helpful. One or more of these tests will be necessary to determine what type of heart disease your dog has.
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How Aspca Pet Health Insurance Can Help
Whether youre dealing with a congenital or acquired condition like heart disease or just taking your pal in for routine vaccines, an ASPCA Pet Health Insurance Plan can help you keep medical costs down. Its simple, too. Quote. Enroll. Cover. Easy as 1,2,3. Get a quote and enroll now!
*Pre-existing conditions are not covered. Waiting periods, annual deductible, co-insurance, benefit limits and exclusions may apply. For all terms and conditions visit www.aspcapetinsurance.com/terms. Preventive and Wellness Care reimbursements are based on a schedule. Complete Coverage reimbursements are based on the invoice. Levels 1-4 reimbursements are based on usual and customary eligible costs. Products, schedules, and rates may vary and are subject to change. Discounts may vary and are subject to change. More information available at checkout.
Dog Heart Failure Symptoms
At this point, you begin to notice a behavior change.
Congestive heart failure is the inability of the heart to pump enough blood for the whole body and preserve the circulatory system.
The diagnosis of this disease can be very distressing, especially since certain breeds of dogs are genetically predisposed.
But you should be aware that it can be contained with specific treatment and some lifestyle changes.
This is why recognizing early signs of congestive heart failure in dogs is crucial.
The first signs your dog is likely to show are related to the affected side of the heart.
If he is suffering from the left side, the blood arriving in the atrium is pushed back to the lungs causing a buildup of fluids that we call pulmonary edema.
The dog shows:
If the right side is affected, blood arriving in the right atrium is pushed back to the rest of the body, leading to a build-up of fluids in certain cavities and in particular the belly. We then speak of ascites. Some veins may leak, the blood then stagnates in the limbs, this is peripheral edema.
Note that if mitral insufficiency is left untreated, it can severely damage the heart and ultimately affect the right side, spreading the disease to the whole heart.
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Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs
Written bySmall Door’s medical experts
Congestive heart failure is fairly common in dogs. Approximately 10% of all dogs, and 75% of senior dogs, have some form of heart disease. CHF itself is not a disease: it is a condition that is a result of heart disease.
In This Article
Stages Of Congestive Heart Failure
The risk and progression of CHF in dogs is classified by stages similar to the way it is categorized for humans with CHF. The stages run from an initial risk for developing CHF but not showing any symptoms to severe symptoms .
- Stage A: Dogs with a higher risk for developing CHF but currently show no symptoms or structural changes to the heart. Dogs with a genetic risk include small breeds such as Miniature Poodles, Cocker Spaniels, Terrier breeds, and some larger dogs such as Great Danes or Dobermans.
- Stage B: Dogs with a heart murmur that a vet can hear but does not show any symptoms. A murmur indicates turbulent blood flow within the heart
- Stage B2: Dogs that show a structural change on an X-ray/radiograph or echocardiogram but are without symptoms.
- Stage C: In this stage, symptoms of heart disease are present. Dogs in this stage will have current or historic clinical signs of congestive heart failure, but still respond positively to medications and treatment.
- Stage D: This stage is referred to as end-stage disease. In this stage, a dog will typically have severe symptoms of disease that unfortunately no longer respond to medications or other treatments.
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When To Consider Euthanasia
Though nothing can make the process painless, there are some things to consider that can help smooth the journey a little.
Theres no such thing as perfect.
If you are waiting on the perfect time to euthanize, you will be waiting forever.
There is no perfect or right time to do it.
There will be pain, grief, and doubt regardless of whether you do it now, tomorrow, or three years from now.
How is your dogs quality of life? Is he able to walk and play comfortably?
Does he eat regularly? Is his breathing labored?
Does he get up and greet you on most days?
While euthanizing your dog may be painful, it is also painful watching them suffer.
If you notice a major decline in his quality of life, you have to ask yourself whether keeping him alive is causing him misery.
If the answer is Yes, it is likely time to make an appointment with your vet.
Is your family suffering?
As difficult as it can be to lose someone you love, it can sometimes be more difficult watching their decline.
When families watch a loved one suffer and die slowly, it is often an emotional burden they do not know how to bear.
When that loved one does pass, the family while certainly sad feels a sense of relief that their family member is no longer suffering.
Knowing that he or she has moved on to a more peaceful existence provides a sense of closure.
You have to ask yourself if your family would your family be able to cope better with their grief if they were no longer watching your dog suffer.
How Long Will My Dog Live With Congestive Heart Failure
Once your dog has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure, its prognosis depends on a variety of factors including the severity of its disease. Your veterinarian will be able to give you a more accurate estimate of the estimated survival time for your dog.
The majority of dogs with heart failure will not live for more than 2 years. Dr. Mark Rishniw, a veterinary cardiologist, suggested that around half of dogs will die from congestive heart failure from mitral valve disease within 8 to 10 months. As this is only an average, some dogs may die within days, weeks, or months from diagnosis.
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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.