How Is Dcm Diagnosed
Before a diagnosis of dilated cardiomyopathy is made, several tests are performed to assess different aspects of heart function.
Auscultation. Listening to the chest with a stethoscope allows your veterinarian to identify murmurs due to the improper closure of heart valves. The murmur’s location and intensity help determine its significance. Heart rhythm is also assessed during auscultation, and if there are concerns, your veterinarian may simultaneously palpate or feel the pulse to determine its strength and rhythm. Auscultation is also used to evaluate the lungs.
Blood and urine tests. Liver and kidney function can be a concern, because these organs are often impaired in heart disease.
ProBNP. This is a blood test that measures a specific protein level in the body that changes with structural changes of the heart and heart disease. It is not as reliable a test as some of the others outlined below to indicate the source or an accurate assessment of the severity of the condition.
Chest radiographs . Chest radiographs allow your veterinarian to examine the lungs and measure the size and shape of the heart. Dilated cardiomyopathy usually causes obvious enlargement of the heart, particularly the left side.
Electrocardiogram . This is an assessment based on the electrical activity of the heart. It allows your veterinarian to accurately determine heart rate and to diagnose any abnormal rhythms.
How Can I Make My Dog Comfortable With Congestive Heart Failure
To manage CHF well, your dog will need medication and monitoring. So making your dog comfortable will involve a number of things:
- Following up with your vet about adjustments to your pets medication regimen.
- Scheduling regular rechecks so that your vet can monitor how the heart is functioning.
- Watching for signs and symptoms of CHF in your pet and responding appropriately when they occur.
- Making changes at home, such as feeding smaller amounts more frequently to help prevent congestion from occurring.
- Keeping the home calm and quiet to avoid times of stress for pets living with CHF this means keeping visitors away.
- Providing comfortable beds or pillows for pets who are having trouble getting comfortable because of their disease.
- Your veterinarian will determine which medications are appropriate in your pets case.
The cardioselective beta-blockers atenolol or metoprolol are commonly used to control rapid heart rates seen in dogs with congestive heart failure. Diuretics like furosemide and spironolactone can be used to remove fluid from body tissues most importantly from the lungs. Some dogs with congestive heart failure also have fluid accumulation in their abdomen, so removing that fluid helps relieve abdominal discomfort as well as shortness of breath.
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Preventing Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs
To prevent CHF, owners need to be aware of the signs and symptoms associated with heart problems and address them right away. Proper nutrition is important, but supplements can also play a role heart disease prevention.
Some preliminary studies have shown a link between grain-free diets and heart disease . If your dog is eating a grain-free diet, speak with your veterinarian about whether your dog should change to a diet containing grain.
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.
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Home Remedies For Heart Failure In Dogs
The most important home remedy for heart failure in dogs is to feed your dog a low-sodium, healthy diet, which is the same advice that your vet would recommend. Even the supplements that are advised as a home remedy for heart failure are the same as those advised by your vet, and what we have listed above .
The only other home remedy sometimes mentioned online is feeding your dog a dandelion leaf tincture or dandelion leaf tea. Dandelion leaf is a natural diuretic, and heart disease treatment usually involves giving your dog a diuretic medicine in the form of a tablet every day. Dandelion leaf is touted as a natural, easy-to-administer alternative. Although we know dandelion is a natural diuretic, there isnt a great deal of study on its effect with heart failure patients, and fewer still with the effect on dogs.
Other herbal remedies such as hawthorn have some positive effect on human patients suffering from heart failure, but again, more research is needed including a study on the effect on our pets.
You can discuss with your vet if they think taking dandelion leaf tincture would benefit your dog. However, the diuretics prescribed by your vet are incredibly safe and effective and backed up by years of research and thousands of successful treatments of dog patients in the real world. And even if your dog is taking this herbal tincture, they will still need other daily medications to control the effects of their failing heart.
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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What Is The Difference Between Right
Right-sided congestive heart failure causes poor venous blood return to the heart. In other words, when the heart contracts or pumps, instead of the right ventricle pushing the blood through the lungs for oxygenation, some blood leaks through the tricuspid valve back into the right atrium. This blood backs up into the systemic circulation and consequently becomes congested. Fluid accumulates in the abdomen, interfering with the function of the organs in these areas. The abdomen may fill with fluid, a condition called ascites. Fluid may also leak from veins in the limbs, causing swelling, known as peripheral edema.
In left-sided congestive heart failure , when the heart contracts or pumps, instead of the left ventricle pushing the blood into the systemic circulation, some blood leaks through the mitral valve back into the left atrium and then it backs up into the lungs. Fluid then seeps into the lung tissue resulting in pulmonary edema. This causes coughing and difficulty breathing. Left-sided congestive heart failure is the most common form of congestive heart failure. The classic signs of heart failure, coughing and fluid in the chest, are most commonly caused by LS-CHF.
Congestive Heart Disease In Dogs
Your beloved pet can have heart problems just like you. Know the symptoms so you can get your companion the help they need.
Heart disease may lead to congestive heart failure. That’s when your dog’s heart has trouble pumping blood to the rest of its body.
Heart disease can affect one side of the heart or sometimes both sides. It can progress slowly and may take years to spot.
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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.
What Causes Chf In Dogs
Congestive heart failure can be caused by any heart disease. There are no specific genetic predispositions for heart failure, but there are some dog breeds that are more likely to develop heart disease than others.
Breeds that are genetically predisposed to heart disease include:
- Shetland Sheepdogs
Heart disease, and therefore congestive heart failure, are more common in senior dogs. Scar tissue can build up on the heart valves over time, leading to turbulent blood flow and leakage from the valves. These changes require the heart to work harder, which can contribute to CHF.
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Heart Failure Patients Too Optimistic
Study Shows Patients Overestimate Their Life Expectancy
A new study shows nearly two-thirds of people with congestive heart failure overestimate their remaining life expectancy by an average of 40% compared with whats realistic based on their prognosis.
Heart failure, which occurs when the heart is too weak to pump enough blood to meet the bodys needs, causes 55,000 deaths each year and indirectly contributes to 230,000 more deaths annually in the U.S.
Although there have been recent improvements in congestive heart failure treatment, researchers say the prognosis for people with the disease is still bleak, with about 50% having an average life expectancy of less than five years. For those with advanced forms of heart failure, nearly 90% die within one year.
Patient perception of prognosis is important because it fundamentally influences medical decision making regarding medications, devices, transplantation, and end-of-life care, write researcher Larry A. Allen, MD, MHS, of the Duke Clinical Research Institute and colleagues in The Journal of the American Medical Association.
Dog Congestive Heart Failure Stages
Four functional classifications of Congestive Heart Failure have been identified in dogs:
CLASS I Dog has no obvious signs of disease or distress. In this early phase, during which the heart begins to show weakness, can last for years.
CLASS II Is characterized by minor symptoms like occasional lethargy or fatigue but the dog is still considered otherwise healthy. There could be early indications of shortness of breath accompanying active exercise or heavy physical activity. There are no symptoms when the dog is sitting still or lying down.
There can be a lack of circulation in the extremities in during this stage that may interfere with wound healing. Mental confusion can occasionally result from a lack of circulating oxygen to the brain.
CLASS III Progressing into repeat negative symptoms. Even slow walking on a level surface can produce shortness of breath and fatigue. Other potential signs include excessive sleeping, intolerance to exercise and a persistent dry or hacking cough , wheezing, sudden collapse , and a bluish discoloration of the tongue and gums during exercise.
Because the accumulation of fluid in the chest interferes with deep breathing, the dog may seek fresh air outdoors more than usual in order to catch-its-breath. Along with swelling in the extremities, the dog may have distended abdomen and be unable to rest comfortably. Vomiting, diarrhea and weight loss are all signs of stage three CHF progression.
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How Is Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs Diagnosed
Your veterinarian can listen for a heart murmur to diagnose heart disease. Heart murmurs are graded from 1 to 6, with 1 being the least severe and 6 being the most severe.
If your vet is concerned your dog might have congestive heart failure, she will suggest taking X-rays of the dogs heart and lungs to look for heart enlargement and fluid in or around the lungs.
Although your primary care veterinarian can treat your dog for congestive heart failure, she might refer you to a veterinary cardiologist for further treatment. Board-certified cardiologists are heart specialists who only treat pets with cardiac issues, so they are experts at diagnosing, treating and managing CHF. A cardiologist works together with your regular vet to implement a treatment and monitoring plan for your dog.
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At the Drake Center for Veterinary Care, we believe that pets are members of the family both yours and ours and should be treated as such. And family is deserving of the greatest treatment possible. Providing high-quality and compassionate pet care to families in Encinitas, CA and the neighboring areas of North San Diego County for more than two decades, we have built a reputation for excellence.
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Heart Disease In Dogs
Congestive heart failure is often a result of heart disease. Heart disease is not a specific illness, but an umbrella term for a number of different problems within the heart. These lead to or cause the heart to be unable to work correctly or perform as well as it should.
There are many different types of heart disease, including chronic valvular disease, mitral valve disease, dilated cardiomyopathy, or congenital heart disease to name a few. Its estimated that around 10% of dogs will suffer from some form of heart disease.
Dogs can also develop valvular disease, which means the valves of their heart have weakened and no longer seal properly, so blood leaks back through the valve into other areas of the heart or body. Its estimated that mitral valve disease specifically accounts for 80% of all cases of heart failure in dogs.
Congenital heart disease is something your dog would have been born with, and there are a few different types your pup could have. Fortunately, congenital heart disease is rare and thought to account for fewer than 5% of cases of heart disease in dogs.
Although its not a form of heart disease, an arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rhythm, can also lead to heart failure because it can impact the performance of your poochs heart.
As well as heart disease, heart failure in dogs can be caused by a number of other factors that are either external or related to other areas of your dogs health.
Treating Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs
- Stage Adogs do not need any treatment, but should be regularly screened for heart disease by their veterinarian. This could include regular physical veterinary exams, x-rays and ultrasoundsof the heart.
- Stage Bdogs have structural change to the heart on x-ray and ultrasound. These dogs are not showing signs of congestive heart failure and therefore do not need treatment. They should be re-evaluated routinely to monitor any changes with x-rays or ultrasound. Dogs that start to show signs of congestive heart failure including coughing or a decrease in activity should be seen immediately as they may now be in Stage C.
- Stage Cdogs have clinical signs or symptoms of congestive heart failure. These are dogs that are coughing and/or have a decrease in their ability to exercise. These dogs will be started on medications to help their failing heart deal with the demands placed on it. These medications will be needed for the rest of the dogs life. These dogs may also benefit from a diet designed for dogs with congestive heart disease.
- Stage Ddogs are currently receiving medications as treatment for congestive heart failure, but are not responding to the standard treatment protocols. These dogs will need advanced medical therapy and are best helped by a specialist in cardiology.
If your dog is showing signs or symptoms of congestive heart failure, you need to contact your veterinarianimmediately. Your dogs quality of life will benefit from early diagnosis and treatment.
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What Are The Signs Of Congestive Heart Failure
Congestive heart failure causes a build-up of fluid in the lungs or abdomen. This can cause breathlessness, coughing, and other symptoms of congestive heart failure. To read more about the signs, check out our article about the symptoms of symptoms of heart failure in dogs.
If you spot any of the signs of heart failure, its essential you get your dog checked by a veterinarian right away.
What Tests Might Be Needed To Diagnose Congestive Heart Failure
A good physical exam and auscultation to the heart and lungs are the first step. Before additional and sometimes stressful tests, your vet may recommend a sedative to relax your dog and let them calm down. Supplemental oxygen may be given if your dog is showing signs of stress or respiratory distress.
Once your pup is relaxed and stable, chest radiographs are often the next step. This allows your vet to look at the size and shape of the heart and vessels in the lungs, along with looking for abnormal fluid in the lungs and chest. If there is a lot of fluid present, it can obscure the heart itself, so radiographs may need to be repeated once the fluid has been removed and to assess response to treatment.
An echocardiogram, or ultrasound of the heart, is another good test. This allows your vet or cardiologist to look inside the heart at the valves and vessels and measure how much blood the heart is pumping compared to normal.
If your dog has an abnormal heartbeat, an electrocardiogram may be recommended to determine the type of arrhythmia so appropriate medications can be given to control that.
Finally, there is a blood test called NT-proBNP Assay. This test detects a certain peptide that is released when the heart wall muscles stretch too much. This is a good screening test for breeds of dogs that more commonly develop congestive heart failure such as King Charles Cavalier Spaniels, Boxers, and Doberman Pinschers.
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