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Symptoms Of Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs

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Signs Of Heart Failure

Congestive Heart Failure & Enlarged Heart in Dogs

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.

Common Symptoms Of Heart Failure In Dogs And Cats To Look Out For

Read through the list below to learn more about heart failure in dogs and cats. With the help of this guide, you can choose when its time to call the vet. If you ever have any questions or concerns regarding your pets health, you should always contact a veterinarian or emergency vet as soon as possible so you can quickly find the underlying cause of your pets behavior.

Below are 6 common symptoms of heart failure in dogs and cats:

Medications For Cfh In Dogs

The specific medication used to treat CHF in dogs will vary depending on the underlying cause and severity. Your veterinarian or cardiologist will determine the appropriate drugs, dosages and frequency, and should be consulted before any changes.

The mainstay of congestive heart failure treatment medically is typically diuretics . Diuretics decrease the fluid accumulation in the lungs, abdomen or legs, depending on the initial cause of heart failure.

Pimobendan is another commonly used medication in the treatment of CHF. This drug improves the ability of the heart to contract, increases pumping action, opens blood vessels and reduces the amount of work the heart has to do to perform.

In treating myxomatous mitral valve disease and dilated cardiomyopathy, Pimobendan has been shown to delay the onset of heart failure and increase overall survival time, when started before symptoms appear .

Other medications that can be useful in CHF may include Digoxin, Diltiazem, Angiotensin-converting Enzyme inhibitors, beta-blockers, and calcium channel blockers. Your dog will likely be placed on a combination of medications tailored by your veterinarianto address their specific CHF and underlying heart disease.

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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.

How To Treat Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs

Signs Symptoms Of End Stage Canine Congestive Heart

Treating congestive heart failure depends on the type and severity of your dog’s underlying heart disease and whether the CHF is left- or right-sided. CHF treatment goals are to maximize the heart’s pumping ability and minimize fluid buildup.

Various medications are available to treat CHF in dogs, including:

  • Diuretics: Diuretics are the mainstay of CHF treatment in dogs. They help flush excess fluid out of the system
  • ACE inhibitors: ACE inhibitors make it easier for the heart to pump blood
  • Positive inotropes: Positive inotropes promote heart muscle strength, improving pumping ability

Other treatment methods may be needed, including:

  • Fluid removal: Severe fluid buildup may require periodic manual fluid removal from the lungs or abdomen
  • Oxygen supplementation: Dogs with severe respiratory distress may need oxygen supplementation

A high-quality diet can improve your dog’s heart health, thus improving heart function and reducing CHF symptoms. Your veterinarian can provide guidance on dietary changes, such as omega fatty acid supplementation. Follow-up appointments are needed to re-evaluate the heart and assess fluid buildup. These appointments will include chest X-rays, blood work, and an echocardiogram.

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Signs Symptoms And Treatment For Dilated Cardiomyopathy In Dogs

January 20th, 2015 | Posted in Medical Articles


Dilated cardiomyopathy is a disease of predominantly large and giant breed dogs that results in progressive heart muscle dysfunction, chamber dilation, and eventual congestive heart failure or death of affected patients. The exact cause of the condition is unknown but genetic factors are presumed to play a role. There is no known effective preventative strategy for the condition. Treatment for affected individuals may improve their quality of life, delay the onset of heart failure symptoms, and potentially improve life expectancy. Treatment is not curative, however, and most affected individuals eventually die from the disease.


Dilated Cardiomyopathy is a condition characterized by weakness of the heart muscle that eventually leads to enlargement of the heart chambers and complications of congestive heart failure, irregular heart rhythms , and/or sudden death in affected individuals. The condition is infrequently diagnosed in dogs and is rare in cats. It is most common in large or giant breed dogs , with Cocker Spaniels being one notable exception. The prevalence in certain breeds suggests a genetic predisposition for the condition. It affects adult, usually middle-age or elderly patients.


DMVD is the most common acquired heart disease in dogs. Common clinical signs and pathophysiology include:

A Natural Way To Ease The Anxiety And Pain Of Chf

Its vital to treat CHF in dogs so they can live the best life possible, but some of the side effects of CHF can be debilitating, including anxiety and pain. CBD oil can help your dog deal with their anxiety and feel better. We have a whole article dedicated to our picks for the best CBD oil for dogs.

What symptoms of CHF have you seen in your dog?

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

How to Recognize Congestive Heart Failure in a Dog

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.

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How Do You Know When Heart Failure Is Near The End

Symptoms associated with end stage heart disease include trouble breathing, exhaustion, weight loss, changes in skin color, swelling, and abdominal pain all or most of the time.

Can dogs sense heart problems?

The dogs sense of smell can detect changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar, even though the chemical changes in the body are minute.

How Long Can dogs live on heart medication?

A 2018 study found that even dogs presenting with advanced heart failure survived an average of approximately one year with changes in their treatment, with some dogs living nearly three years .

Is My Dog At Risk For Congestive Heart Failure

Several factors can increase a dogs risk of congestive heart failure. These include:

Age The incidence of CHF is higher in middle-aged to older dogs. Chronic valve disease is the most common cause of congestive heart failure in dogs and affects more than 60% of senior dogs.

Size Large dog breeds have higher risks for dilated cardiomyopathy, which is a leading cause of heart failure in these breeds. Some of the most common breeds affected by CHF are Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and Doberman Pinschers.

Breed Mitral valve degeneration is a common cause of heart failure in small dog breeds. However, certain small breeds, such as the Toy Poodle, Shih Tzu, and Chihuahua have higher risks of being affected. Among the small dog breeds, its the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that is most at risk for MVD.

Boxers are also prone to hereditary conditions affecting the heart that can lead to heart failure.

Heartworm disease Untreated heartworm infections can increase a dogs risk for CHF. As the number of adult heartworms increases, they can clog the heart and its major blood vessels. The worms can also interfere with the actions/functions of the heart valves.

Diet Nutrition-related factors, such as obesity, certain nutritional deficiencies, and a high-salt diet, can increase a dogs risk of developing heart problems.

When your dog is overweight or obese, his heart will need to work harder so adequate blood can be circulated throughout the body.

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How Long Can Dogs Live With Heart Failure

The prognosis for heart failure in dogs is poor. On average, dogs with this condition can survive for an average of 612 months.

But early detection and treatment of heart failure in dogs can extend the lives of affected canines. Some dogs were able to live for 3 years after being diagnosed with heart failure.


Dog Congestive Heart Failure Stages

Dog congestive heart failure panting. Dog congestive heart failure panting.

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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What Does Science Say About Cbd For Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs

Collectively, the current findings present evidence for CBDs alleviation of cardiovascular anomalies and the diminution of myocardial oxidative stresstwo factors directly related to symptoms of canine Coronary Heart Failure. Similar studies show that CBD induces a substantial cardioprotective effect from ischemia.

Cannabidiol may represent a promising novel treatment for CHF in dogs by protecting the heart and other organs from oxidative damage due to myocardial ischemia. Accumulating evidence also suggests that CBD is beneficial in the cardiovascular system by its direct actions on isolated arteries, causing both acute and time-dependent vasorelaxation .

Additionally, pre-clinical data appear to support a positive role for CBD treatment in the heart as well as in the peripheral and cerebral vasculature.

At its core, cannabinoid based therapy can minimize symptoms related to Congestive Heart Failure to make your dog feel better & more comfortable, reduce unexpected peripheral vascular problems that arise, and offer a better safety-profile and eliminate the potential long-term side-effects from prescription medications-thereby achieving the three objectives of effective natural, holistic pet care for canine CHF.

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.

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Change In Body Weight

As humans, we usually see weight loss as a good thing, but your cat or dogs rapid weight loss does not carry the same positive meaning. When your pet has heart disease and is losing a lot of weight quickly, its because there is a hormone-like substance produced at high levels during heart failure. This results in muscle and weight loss in your pet.

Prognosis Of Dogs With Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive heart failure in pets

The development of heart failure represents a specific measurable point in the development of heart disease. For DMVD, the average survival of dogs with CHF is 9 months.5 However, within survival times in this group vary widely, with some patients living over 3 years.5 Survival in dogs with DCM is similar.16

Parameters that can help stratify risk by suggesting poorer prognosis include large left atrial and left ventricular size and high mitral E wave velocity.

When owners are questioned, it is evident that most would trade some longevity for improved quality of life. With a logical approach, heart failure can be controlled for many months with a good quality of life in most dogs.

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Causes Treatment And Prevention

Heart disease can cause a variety of health problems in dogs, but some complications are more severe than others. Congestive heart failure is a severe heart condition that can affect dogs, cats, and humans, occurring in some cases of advanced heart disease. Like other types of heart failure, CHF can cause symptoms like difficulty breathing, coughing, panting, loss of appetite, distended abdomen, and pale or blue gums. This is due to the heart pumping blood improperly to the body, which results in blood congestion and swelling within the organs typically affecting the lungs. About 80 percent of CHF cases in dogs are caused by mitral valve insufficiency , which is most common in small breeds. Prompt treatment is necessary to relieve discomfort, ease breathing, and prevent death.

Caring For A Dog With Congestive Heart Failure

While there is no cure when congestive heart failure develops, proper care and management can help your pet live longer and have a better quality of life. The following measures are important in the management of your pets heart condition:

1. Closely monitor the following:

  • Your pets food and water intake
  • Respiratory rate

2. Keeping a record of these symptoms and activities will make it easier for your vet to evaluate your pet.

3. Be familiar with your pets medications. Make sure to ask your vet about the purpose and possible side effects of each medication. The correct dosage and administration are very important.

4. Dont skip your pets check-ups. Your vet needs to monitor your pets condition and there may be a need to review and make adjustments to your pets medications. If you have any questions and/or concerns about your pet, its a good idea to write them down before your pet visits the veterinary hospital so you can discuss them with your vet. During your pets check-ups, your vet may perform specific tests to monitor your pets vital functions.

5. Your pet will benefit from a low salt diet because heart failure can increase the tendency to retain water and salt. Your vet may prescribe a special diet that is appropriate for your dogs condition.

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