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Signs Of Dog Heart Failure

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Congestive Heart Failure & Enlarged Heart in Dogs

A cardiac exam by a veterinarian can detect abnormal heart sounds and many signs of heart failure. Usually, chest radiographs , an electrocardiogram , and an echocardiogram are performed to confirm a suspected diagnosis and to assess severity.

Echocardiography can be used to screen for early dilated cardiomyopathy in breeds with a higher incidence of the disease. Resting and 24-hour ECGs are sometimes used as screening tests for the frequent arrhythmias that usually accompany dilated cardiomyopathy in some breeds, especially boxers and Doberman pinchers.

How Dogs Can Help Prevent Heart Disease In People

The companionship of our puppy pals can put us at ease with all the tail-wagging comfort they bring. Whether its a few wet kisses, a cold nose, or warm snuggles, most pet parents can agree that the loyalty and companionship of a dog is good medicine for the heart. And now the medical field agrees!

In general, healthier people are just more likely to own pets. But according to the American Heart Association, pet ownership can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Here are a couple of reasons behind this belief:

  • Puppy parents tend to be more active and get more exercise because of their dogs
  • Pets provide social support to their pet parents, which helps them maintain healthy habits, like engaging in physical activities

Its important to note that pet ownership shouldnt be viewed as something done strictly for medical purposes. Instead, consider it one of the many benefits of developing a warm and trusting relationship with your furry family members.

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What Are The Different Stages Of Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs

The stages of congestive heart failure in dogs are classified into 4 groups. It is worth noting that certain clinical signs are more common at each stage.

Stage 1

This is the beginning of a dogs heart degeneration. Clinical symptoms of the condition are yet to show themselves.

Stage 2

Early symptoms of congestive heart failure start to take place. Affected dogs in this stage often have breathing difficulties, low energy, and slow respiratory rate.

Stage 3

What are the final stages of congestive heart failure? Stage 3 is one of the final stages of congested heart failure in dogs. Around this time, dogs with CHF become tired more quickly. Chronic coughing and severe difficulty in breathing may arise too.

Stage 4

What are the last stages of congestive heart failure in dogs? Stage 4 is the last stage of CHF in dogs. Pooches that are in this stage will experience breathing difficulties even when at rest.

Other symptoms to be aware of are a bloated abdomen, swollen limbs, and blue-coloured gums.

What Causes Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs

Heart Disease In Dogs

There are a number of factors that can result in CHF. Some dogs are born with congenital heart defects that contribute to this condition, but they can take years to present themselves. Congenital heart disease is rare, accounting for about 5% of all canine heart disease.

Common congenital heart diseases include:

  • Mitral valve insufficiency . While mitral disease can be congenital, we typically see it develop more in middle or old age.

  • Dilated cardiomyopathy

  • Atrial septal defect

  • Patent ductus arteriosus or PDA

Dogs that are born with healthy hearts can develop heart disease during their lifetime. Like humans, dogs can develop health issues that can lead to CHF as they age. Other causes of CHF in dogs:

  • Heartworms: Heartworms can block heart valves, or even clog an entire heart chamber. See our article on heartworm preventative.

  • Hormones: The thyroid especially can affect the hearts function and performance. For example, a dog with hypothyroidism usually has a slower-than-normal heart rate.

  • Parvovirus: This virus can potentially infect the heart muscles, and can even cause acute heart failure in dogs.

  • Bacterial infections: Bacteria from the mouth can get into the bloodstream and attach to the heart valves, causing inflammation in the lining of the heart or in the valves.

  • Nutritional deficiency: A lack of vitamin E or selenium can cause damage to the heart muscles.

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How Veterinarians Diagnose Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs

Diagnosing congestive heart failure will start with listening to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope. Most dogs will have a heart murmur which will be graded in severity from 1 to 6.

  • Grade 1: Very soft murmur, often difficult to hear

  • Grade 2: Soft murmur but readily heard

  • Grade 3: Moderately loud murmur

  • Grade 4: Loud murmur

  • Grade 5: Very loud murmur that can be heard with the stethoscope, barely touching the chest. The vet can feel a vibration through the chest wall over the heart

  • Grade 6: Very loud murmur that can be heard with the stethoscope of the chest . The vet can feel a vibration through the chest wall over the heart

If your veterinarian suspects CHF, he or she will likely want to perform a chest X-ray/radiograph to check for heart enlargement or evidence of fluid on the lungs . Electrocardiogram may also be used to assess the rate and rhythm of the heart.

At this point, your veterinarian may refer you to a veterinary cardiologist for more specialized testing such as an echocardiograph or ultrasound of the heart. An echocardiograph is the most useful tool to identify the source of a murmur, the likely cause of CHF, and a measurement of the hearts ability to pump blood.

What Is The Life Expectancy For An Elderly Person With Congestive Heart Failure

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.

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Cough: Caused By Heart Failure Or Respiratory Disease

Cough is a common complaint that does not necessarily indicate heart failure. Instead, it may be related to an enlarged heart compressing the airway or primary airway/lung disease.

In a dog with a good appetite and normal activity level, a chronic, harsh cough that ends with a gag is less likely to be associated with heart failure. Cough from mainstem bronchial compression can occur before onset of congestive heart failure and often persists after active pulmonary edema has been resolved with diuretic therapy .

It is useful to ask the following questions about a cough:

  • How long has the cough or respiratory signs been present?
  • Is the cough harsh ?
  • How are the dogs appetite and activity level?

Four Stages Of Congestive Heart Failure

Common symptoms of heart failure in pets

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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Bring Your Pet To Veg For All Symptoms Of Heart Failure In Dogs And Cats

As you can see, there are many signs of heart failure associated with dogs and cats. If you have a senior pet, or any pet with a known chronic health condition, its a good idea to learn these symptoms. This way, youll know when somethings going wrong with your pet, and youll be ready to go to the vet.

Remember that there is no cure for heart failure. Although some pets may live a long time with early to moderate stages of heart failure, it will eventually advance beyond any treatment or management. Your vet will help you choose when euthanasia may be the best option for your pet.

If you notice your pet exhibiting any of the symptoms of heart failure in dogs and cats mentioned above, you should seek veterinary care as soon as possible. VEG has locations all over the country, with most of them being open 24 hours a day and all of them being open 24 hours on weekends and holidays. All of our hospitals are staffed with compassionate, caring professionals who always put the wellbeing and comfort of your pet first. So dont wait, make sure your pet gets the care she needs by calling and speaking to one of our emergency vets now.

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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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.

How To Soothe A Dog With Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs

There are both medicinal and non-medicinal home care plans to soothe your dog if it has congestive heart failure. You should be diligent with administering its medication if your vet recommends them to correct the irregularities in your dogs pulse.

Following the diagnosis of heart failure in your dog, you need to regularly monitor and check its heart and the progress the adopted treatment plan is making. Upon stabilizing the dogs condition, you could reduce the frequency of such tests.

In this guide, we will further learn the befitting diet and exercise plan to soothe a dog with congestive heart failure.

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Dilated Cardiomyopathy In Dogs

Dilated cardiomyopathy is less common, but still affects around 5-10% of dogs. Primarily concerning larger breeds such as dobermans, great danes, and boxers, DCM occurs when the chambers of the heart enlarge and the muscles become stretched and weak. This prevents the heart from pumping blood properly. DCM can have no symptoms at all.

Is Chf Due Mainly To Heart Valve Disease

CHF is most commonly caused by valvular insufficiency. It is estimated that 80% of the canine CHF cases are caused by MVI. However, there are many other causes. Disease of the heart muscle , irregularities of rhythm, and narrowing of some of the major blood vessels can also cause CHF. Initially, MVI results in left-sided congestive heart failure. If left untreated, the heart failure may progress to involve both sides of the heart.

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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 .

What Is Canine Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive heart failure in pets

At its core, congestive heart failure in dogs means that their blood is not being pumped adequately throughout the body.

Like a human, a dogs body survives by the blood that gets pumped through its veins.

Every part of the body relies on that blood to keep it alive, well, and healthy.

When the blood does not reach those parts, different parts of the body suffer.

Additionally, even if that blood does not go to the proper places, it still goes somewhere, leading to medical issues.

Where it goes and the problems it causes depends on the type of CHF the dog has.

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Make Recommendations For Home Care That Considers The Pets And Care Takers Quality Of Life

Involve owners in monitoring their dogs heart disease:

Set up a recheck schedule to monitor disease progression, potential adverse effects of medications, patient quality of life, and any challenges faced by the owner. Recheck evaluations for a dog in heart failure are often recommended every 2 to 4 months, or sooner, if medications are adjusted or clinical decompensation occurs.

Educate owners about clinical signs that indicate their dogs need medical attention, including cough , breathing difficulty, anorexia or vomiting, and lethargy or collapse.

Encourage owners to record resting or sleeping breathing rates at home. Many dogs have a resting breathing rate of less than 35 breaths/minute, often in the mid-teens to mid-twenties. An elevated breathing rate that is repeatable within the hour, especially if the dog has breathing difficulty or a decrease in appetite or activity level, should prompt medical attention.

Additional points to consider:

  • Ensure the dog is eating and taking its medications. Make recommendations for a palatable diet and advise the owner to avoid high-salt foods and treats when possible.
  • Set activity level expectations, which varies for each dog. Light activity is acceptable and encouraged, especially if it enhances quality of life, but strenuous activity needs to be avoided.
  • Consider the owners lifestyle when making treatment recommendations. For instance, therapy given more than twice daily may be difficult for some owners.

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