Diagnosing Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs
To diagnose canine congestive heart failure, a full physical examination will be performed by your vet. This will indicate whether your dog has an abnormal heart size, pleural effusion, pericardial effusion , or a heart defect. An enlarged heart is common for senior dogs and can be detected with a heart ultrasound which will also determine the shape and movement of the heart. During the examination, your vet will conduct a complete blood profile which will include a blood count and urinalysis.
When you take your dog to see the vet, be sure to tell them about each and every symptom youve noticed and how long its been going on. A veterinarian will want to know what your pet has been eating, which medications or supplements theyre taking, and if your pup is currently on a heartworm disease preventative. Most vet clinics will request your dogs complete health history as well as information about any incidents that may have contributed to the condition. Your pets health history can give the veterinarian staff clues as to which organs are being affected by the heart condition.
Other tests for diagnosing congestive heart failure in dogs will likely include:
- Heartworm antigen testing through blood work
- Listening to the heart through a stethoscope
- Electrocardiogram to measure electrical signals from the heart
- Holter monitoring to capture heart rate and rhythms
Upon diagnosis of congestive heart failure, its essential that you start treatment as soon as possible.
What Are The Causes
Several things can cause CHF in dogs. Sometimes, theres a congenital heart defect, which means the defect has been there since birth. These defects include leaking heart valves, an enlarged heart, a hole in the heart and blood vessel abnormalities. Its rare for a dog to have a congenital heart defect. Leaking valves and enlarged hearts can be congenital or develop over time.
Dogs that are born healthy can develop CHF later in life. Some of the things that can cause CHF to develop include viruses like parvovirus, heartworms, bacterial infections and nutritional deficiencies.
What Are Symptoms Of Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs
There are several symptoms and signs of congestive heart failure in dogs. By keeping them in mind, you can speak to your vet about their presence in your dog and move forward with further diagnostics if required.
Since the set of symptoms for CHF may relate to a variety of other conditions and diseases, you should keep an eye on your dog to determine if they are going through any of these challenges. If your dog seems to have any issues that are associated with CHF, you should reach out to a skilled vet right away.
Sometimes, indicators of other conditions such as signs of anxiety in dogs can be mistaken for CHF. Getting a professional opinion lets you steer clear of these confusing diagnoses. Due to this reason, you should not compromise on reaching out to a vet.
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Are Dogs Of Certain Breeds Or Advanced Age More Prone To Chf
While its possible for your dog to be born with a heart defect that causes CHF, your four-legged loved one could also develop it later in life.
Small breeds are more likely to develop congestive heart failure, specifically toy poodles, Pomeranians, dachshunds, and cavalier King Charles spaniels. But some giant breeds are also prone, including St. Bernards, Newfoundlands, and Great Danes.
Of course, just because your dog isnt one of these breeds doesnt mean that they cant or wont develop CHF, but owners of these breeds of dogs should keep a special eye out for the warning signs, especially if you have an older dog.
What Life Is Like For Dogs With Congestive Heart Failure
Generally, dogs with CHF have a good quality of life with proper care and management of this and any underlying conditions. Some alterations are needed to diet, weight, and exercise but most adapt well.
Regular visits to your veterinarian to monitor treatment protocol can improve your dogs overall well-being and decrease or eliminate symptoms.
Once diagnosed, if you notice significant changes in your dog’s resting respiratory rate, gum color, activity level, the severity or frequency of cough, or any swelling develops in their legs or other body parts, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. Seek immediate medical attention if your dog has any fainting episodes or collapses. Be familiar with locations for emergency care in your area in case your dog needs attention outside of regular office hours.
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Natural Treatment For Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs
Conventional veterinary medical practitioners consider congestive heart failure and other circulatory problems to be progressive and irreversible, but there are natural, holistic treatment options available for pet owners that show promise in slowing, reversing and even preventing CHF in the first place. Cannabidiol, a primary constituent of Canine Support Formula, can reduce heart rate & blood pressure associated with stress and anxiety.
The goal of any treatment is to improve whatever underlying imbalances or deficiencies the dog may be experiencing, which may help to slow or stop the progression of disease.
Since all drugs used to treat symptoms of CHF have some adverse effects, another goal is to facilitate the safe reduction or even elimination of the dogs conventional prescriptions. Of course, treatment outcome depends on the type, severity, and duration of the dogs illness, but many veterinarians and dog owners have seen great improvements in their patients by taking a more natural, holistic approach to canine heart disease.
Two Main Types Of Heart Failure
Typically, there are two types of heart failure.
The most common is dilated cardiomyopathy, where the heart increases in size-stretching the heart walls thin, thus decreasing the efficiency of pumping blood throughout the body.
The second, rarer kind is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, where the heart walls thicken, which also reduces the ability of the heart to sufficiently supply blood. Congestive heart failure may develop over years, months or even as short as a few weeks.
Unlike the human heart attack, the canine heart does not abruptly stop. Instead, as the heart function declines, the body relies on other organs to strain themselves to make up for the decreased heart activity. When the heart can no longer pump enough oxygenated blood to meet the body’s needs, heart failure occurs.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs
Here are some common symptoms that could indicate your dog is suffering from CHF:
- Becoming tired more quickly than usual when on walks or when playing this is due to poor oxygen flow through the body resulting in less energy.
- Coughing this is mainly due to the fluid congestion within the lungs.
- Panting at abnormal times, for example, when they arent hot or havent been exercising is the bodys attempt to increase its oxygen levels.
- An increased breathing rate when they are resting or sleeping this happens because fluid accumulation within the lungs restricts the movement of the lungs, resulting in more frequent breaths in an attempt to maintain oxygen levels.
- Reluctance to exercise exercise becomes more difficult for your dog because of reduced oxygen flow through the body. Breathing is more difficult due to fluid accumulation within the lungs.
- General fatigue this is because less oxygen flow through the body means less energy.
- Loss of appetite often as a result of feeling unwell.
- Unexplained weight loss often due to an increased need for energy and a reduced appetite.
- Blue-tinged gums this is referred to as cyanosis and happens due to a lack of circulating oxygen.
- Coughing up foam or blood this can happen as a result of fluid congesting in the lungs.
- Distended abdomen this is seen in right-sided CHF when fluid congests the abdomen.
- Fainting or collapsing this can happen when blood flow to the brain is reduced.
Common Signs Of Heart Disease In Dogs
Persistent Cough If your dog has a cough that doesnt clear up in a few days, heart disease may be the culprit. Dogs with heart disease cough for many reasons. In some dogs, fluid can accumulate in the lungs when the heart isnt pumping efficiently. This backup of blood in the lungs can result in fluid leaking out of blood vessels and accumulating in lung tissue, resulting in cough. Other dogs may have heart diseases that lead to heart enlargement. The enlarged heart can press on airways and stimulate coughing. Any persistent cough that lasts more than a few days should be checked by a veterinarian.
Fainting or Collapse When heart function is less than optimal, vital organs such as the brain can become deprived of nutrients, especially oxygen. Blood flow to the brain can be compromised in dogs with heart disease, leading to fainting or collapse. Syncope and collapse in dogs with heart disease usually are triggered by exercise, although sometimes coughing can trigger an episode.
Difficulty Breathing Dogs with heart disease often will have difficulty breathing . A dog may breathe more rapidly, or with more force. Some dogs will sit or stand with their legs wide apart and with their neck stretched out. Dogs with severe heart disease have more trouble breathing when lying down, and will often sit or stand for long periods of time.
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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 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!
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Diagnosis Of Advanced Heart Failure
All 54 dogs had successful resolution of initial Stage C congestive heart failure. The median time during which dogs were in stage C before advancing to advanced heart failure was 163 days . At the time of diagnosis of advanced heart failure, dogs’ mean age was 10.9±1.9 years. Median body weight was 6.7 kg and median body condition score was 5 . Muscle condition for the 36 dogs for which this information was available was categorized as normal , mild muscle loss , and moderate muscle loss , with no dogs having severe muscle loss. No muscle condition score recorded for 18 dogs . Eighteen dogs were hospitalized on the day of the diagnosis of advanced heart failure, with a median hospitalization duration of 1 day .
The cardiac rhythms at the time of diagnosis of advanced heart failure included sinus rhythm , atrial premature contractions , sinus tachycardia , atrial fibrillation , and thirddegree atrioventricular block . Two dogs were noted to have an arrhythmia in the medical record but the specific type was not recorded. Systolic blood pressure at the time of diagnosis of advanced heart failure was 131±29 mm Hg . Mean laboratory values recorded included: Albumin=3.8±0.3 g/dL , BUN=31±15 mg/dL , chloride=105±6 mEq/L , creatinine=1.1±0.5 mg/dL , packed cell volume=50±6% , potassium=4.1±0.6 mEq/L , and sodium=146±4 mEq/L . A number of laboratory abnormalities were present hypochloremia , hyponatremia , hemoconcentration , azotemia , hypokalemia , and hyperkalemia .
Dog Heart Failure Prevention
Unfortunately, there is no effective prevention of this common disease, and the proposed treatment is done to improve the quality of your friends life.
In general, the prognosis for congestive heart failure is poor but tends to improve over time due to advances in research, and new drugs proposed.
If you live in an area where heartworm is present, make sure your dog receives preventative medication regularly.
If your dog is diagnosed with heart failure, regular visits to your veterinarian should be scheduled to assess the effects of treatment and possibly adjust the protocol.
Alertness, stress management, diet, and constant care can significantly extend your dogs life.
But remember, the sooner this disease is detected and treated, the more longevity and comfortable quality of life you provide to your dog.
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Diagnosis Of Stage C Heart Failure
At the time of diagnosis of stage C heart failure, the mean age was 10.4±1.9 years. Median body weight was 6.5 kg and median body condition score was 7 . Muscle condition was scored as normal , mild muscle loss , or moderate muscle loss . Thirty dogs did not have muscle condition score noted in the medical record. Pulmonary edema , pericardial effusion , pleural effusion , and ascites were recorded as clinical signs of congestive heart failure, with some dogs having multiple sites of fluid accumulation. Dietary recommendations were made to 33 dogs including use of a lowsodium diet , low sodium treats , and fish oil supplementation . Exercise restriction was recommended for 33 dogs.
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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How Is Chf Diagnosed In Dogs
Bruiser needed an echocardiogram , which revealed degeneration of the mitral heart valve and subsequent heart enlargement. This is common in older dogs.
A full physical examination will be needed to determine the cause and whether there is an abnormal heart size, fluid accumulation, pleural effusion, and heart defects.
Steps toward a diagnosis of congestive heart failure in dogs:
- Listening to the heart with a stethoscope
- An electrocardiogram . Sometimes an ultrasound is done as well.
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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The 5 Most Common Causes Of Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs
- Heartworms. They can block heart valves or even an entire heart chamber, causing the heart muscle to thicken, heart enlargement, lead to valve disease, and cause other serious damage.
- Parvovirus. This highly contagious virus is preventable with a vaccine, but if your dog catches it, it could potentially infect the heart muscles.
- Bacterial infections. Bacteria that get into the bloodstream can cause swelling in the lining of the heart or heart valves. Luckily, good dental health and proper teeth brushing can help prevent this from happening.
- Nutritional deficiency. A good diet and regular exercise are incredibly important to a dogs overall health. Poor nutrition over the course of your dogs life can cause CHF or potentially make CHF worse when caused by other factors.
- Genetics. Some dogs are just predisposed to developing heart failure later in life due to their genetic makeup .
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.
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Your Veterinarian May Recommend One Or More Of The Following Medical Treatments:
- Diuretics, are medications help to remove excess fluid buildup from the lungs or abdomen .
- ACE Inhibitors, or inhibitors of angiotensin-converting enzyme, are a group of medications that open up constricted blood vessels and are used primarily in the treatment of hypertension and congestive heart failure as a way to help the heart pump blood more effectively. .
- Inodilators, are medications that both increase myocardial contractility and open up constricted blood vessels, reducing the workload on your dogs weakened heart .
- Beta-Blockers, in some cases, vets may also prescribe beta-blockers to support efforts to control the heart rate.
These medical interventions effectively treat the symptoms of the disease, vastly improving the quality of the animals remaining life, but do nothing to prevent the progression of the illness.
Its likely that your dog will be put on long-term medication after being diagnosed with compromised heart function, so your visits to the veterinarian may need to be more frequent at first, but once your dogs condition has stabilized with treatment, you can expect to resume a more regular and potentially less frequent visit schedule as your dog shows improvement.