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Stages Of Heart Failure In Dogs

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What Are The Signs Of Heart Disease In Dogs

Early Stages of Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)

Heart disease in dogs often goes unrecognized for some timeeven years. The most common cause of heart disease is characterized by a long preclinical stage when the dog is asymptomatic, Gordon says. That means the first stage of heart disease will likely go unnoticed by owners, but may be detected by your veterinarian.

Gordon says to keep in mind that not all dogs with heart disease will go on to develop heart failure, but that there are many clinical signs of heart failure in dogs to watch out for, including:

  • Fast breathing when he is at rest or sleeping. Here are Gordons tips for evaluating your pets breathing rate at home.
  • Increased effort associated with breathing
  • Restless sleeping moving around a lot and changing positions
  • Coughing or gagging

Recovery And Management Of Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs

Its possible for a dog with CHF to live a happy life. But proper diet, monitored exercise, medications, and good overall care are necessary. Regular check-ups are important for monitoring a dogs condition and assessing the effectiveness of treatments. Any change in health should be addressed immediately.

What Dog Owners Should Know About Cardiac Arrest And Heart Disease

What happens if your dog has a cardiac attack while youre away? Its terrifying to consider the possibility of your dogs heart abruptly stopping. Although the risk of your dog suffering from cardiac arrest is minimal, it is still a good idea to be familiar with the condition. What to do if your dog goes into cardiac arrest is explained in detail.

Also Check: How To Tell If Your Having A Heart Attack

Symptoms Of Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs

Symptoms of CHF in dogs can be one or more of the following clinical signs:

  • Coughing, sometimes even coughing up foam

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Increased rate of breathing, even when resting

  • Inability to exercise

  • Distended abdomen

  • Collapse or sudden death

Seek an emergency vet immediately if your dog is experiencing any signs of respiratory distress or trouble breathing. Your dog may need hospitalization and immediate care when experiencing moderate to severe signs of congestive heart failure.

Common Signs Of Heart Disease In Dogs

Congestive Heart Failure 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.

Tests Helpful in Heart Disease Diagnosis

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What To Expect From Your Vet Visit

Taking your pup to the vet for any reason can be overwhelming and scary, but knowing what to expect can help cut down on both you and your dogs anxiety.

A vet visit to diagnose congestive heart failure is a little different than your typical check-up because special diagnostic tests are required.

First, your vet will need a full history for your dog especially if this vet hasnt been your dogs primary care veterinarian for long. Your vet will want to listen to your dogs breathing and heartbeat, too.

Dont be surprised if a number of these tests are performed:

Without running these tests, your vet wont be able to fully determine which stage of CHF your dog is in, which is important for tailoring a treatment plan. The cost for these types of tests can vary and may cost less if you have insurance, but dog owners should expect to spend at least a few hundred dollars on testing.

Using Calcium Channel Blockers

Vets leverage calcium channel blockers to enhance the relaxation of the dogs heart muscles. This is to suppress the instability, improving the steadiness of the dogs heart rhythm.

These blockers are also effective in reducing the speeding of your dogs heartbeat. Such procedures diminish the chances of cardiac arrest.

Read Also: What Are The Symptoms Of A Mild Heart Attack

How To Soothe A Dog With Congestive Heart Failure

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.

Diagnosis Of Advanced Heart Failure

My dog, Petey, who is in the late stages of congestive 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 .

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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.

What Causes Dilated Cardiomyopathy In Dogs

The cause of dilated cardiomyopathy is unclear in most cases, but certain breeds appear to have an inherited predisposition. Large dog breeds are most often affected, although it also occurs in some smaller breeds, such as cocker spaniels.

Occasionally, dilated cardiomyopathy-like heart muscle dysfunction develops secondary to an identifiable cause such as a toxin or an infection. In contrast to people, heart muscle dysfunction in dogs and cats is almost never the result of chronic coronary artery disease, or heart attacks.

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The Causes Of An Enlarged Heart In Dogs

An enlarged heart may appear in any dog age or breed, However, it is much more common in dogs between the ages of four and ten years old. While there is no definitive cause for dilated cardiomyopathy, there are a number of known factors which can contribute to its development in your pet. Nutritional deficiencies in carnitine and taurine have been proven to factor into the development of an enlarged heart in dogs. As well, other factors such as infectious diseases and genetics can contribute to this conditions development. Some breeds of dog, especially large breeds, are known to be predisposed to developing the condition, they include:

  • Irish Wolfhounds
  • Scottish Deerhounds

Management Of Recurrent Acute Signs

Signs Symptoms Of End Stage Canine Congestive Heart

If decompensated heart failure returns, the patient should be admitted and diuretics given intravenously to regain control. A higher dose of furosemide may be needed and is often achieved by increasing the frequency of administration to 3 times daily or more. If the dose of furosemide starts to exceed 3 to 4 mg/kg q8h, furosemide resistance may be present. At that point, options include adding another diuretic, such as a hydrochlorothiazide, to achieve sequential nephron blockade.

Alternatively, the more potent loop diuretic torsemide can be prescribed. The starting dose is generally obtained by taking the total daily furosemide dose and dividing it by 10 that total daily dose of torsemide is divided to be given PO twice daily. For example, if a dog is receiving a total daily dose of 100 mg furosemide, the dose of torsemide would be 5 mg PO q12h.15

After switching diuretics, renal parameters and electrolytes should be checked in 5 to 7 days.

Also Check: Congestive Heart Failure And Afib

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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.

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What Are The Stages Of Heart Failure In Dogs

When a veterinarian diagnoses heart failure in a dog, he or she may usually categorize it into four stages: A, B, C, and D.

A is the most severe stage, and C is the least severe. If your dog has heart disease, it is advisable to take him to a veterinarian for an evaluation. However, there are a few methods to categorize your pups sickness when he is examined by your veterinarian.

Causes Of Congestive Heart Failure

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A number of different factors can contribute to your dog developing CHF over the course of their lifetime.

Dogs can be born with a defect that causes CHF, but thats more rare only 5% of all canine heart disease is considered congenital. Some congenital heart diseases that can cause CHF include:

  • Atrial septal defect, when theres a hole in the heart.
  • Patent ductus arteriosus, the failure of a blood vessel to close normally at birth.

However, its more common for dogs to develop CHF during their lifetime due to one the following issues mentioned below.

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Do Dogs Know When They Are Dying

This is the last and most heartbreaking of the main signs that a dog is dying. Some dogs will know their time is approaching and will look to their people for comfort. with love and grace means staying with your dog during these final hours, and reassuring them with gentle stroking and a soft voice.

Symptoms Of Chf In Dogs

The most noticeable indication of Bruisers congestive heart failure was laborious breathing. Coughing and trouble breathing are the most prevalent symptoms, which are listed below. Take note of the differences in the symptoms of the early and late stages, and keep a watch out for any of them in your own dog as well. Any of these symptoms should be reported to your veterinarian as soon as they are noticed. Stages in the Early Stages

  • Reduced activity/lethargy
  • Coughingespecially at night or in the early morning
  • And other symptoms

Stages that are late in their development

  • Early stage symptoms include: persistent weight loss, distended belly, vomiting/diarrhea, blue-gray colored gums, leg edema, difficulty breathing, fluid lung sounds, and inability to relax.

Veterinary care is required immediately in a crisis situation, regardless of the ailment.

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Convulsions that last for an extended period of time Uncontrollable vomiting/diarrhea
  • Collapse in the middle of the night Internal or external bleeding that is profuse
  • Crying or wailing because of discomfort

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Stages Of Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs

While there are four stages to classify dogs with heart disease, the last two refer specifically to stages of dogs in congestive heart failure. According to the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine classification, these are stages C and D.

  • Stage A is a dog that is of a breed or has another disease that predisposes the dog to heart disease, but may not have any change to the heart.
  • Stage B is a dog that has a heart murmur on physical exam, but there are no structural changes to the heart and no signs and symptoms of congestive heart failure in these dogs.
  • Stage C is a dog with signs of congestive heart failure or is currently in congestive heart failure.
  • Stage D is a dog that has congestive heart failure that is not responding to treatment.

Stages Of Congestive Heart Failure

Draining Fluid From 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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Late Stage Canine Congestive Heart Failure

In the latter stages of congestive heart failure, the dog becomes lethargic. He’ll breathe heavily when resting, refuse most activity and lay around all day. During activity, it isn’t uncommon for the dog to collapse or faint. The dog’s gums and tongue often turn a bluish-gray color during this fainting spell because the extremities are not getting enough blood.

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

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