Thursday, June 20, 2024

Symptoms Of Heart Failure In Dogs

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What Clinical Signs Should I Expect

Congestive heart failure in pets

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.

Prognosis For Dogs With Congestive Heart Failure

This is a progressive disease, and new problems and symptoms may arise in the future. For example, the return of fluid in the lungs, followed by lethargy and sudden collapse, can occur.

Bruiser is slower than he was prior to being diagnosed. He also experiences gastrointestinal upset from time to time. In general, though, hes doing very well and just had a check-up with his cardiologist.

With appropriate medical therapy, fortunately, most dogs feel good during treatment and experience a good quality of life during and after.

Treatment Options For Heart Failure

Once your vet has diagnosed your dog with congestive heart failure with a physical exam and diagnostic imaging, there will be a few treatment options that can offer your dog more time.

These management options will only be a band aid for your dogs heart disease, but can offer them much needed comfort as the condition progresses.

Some of the most common treatment options for dogs with CHF include:

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Can Dogs Survive Congestive Heart Failure

If promptly treated, your veterinarian may be able to temporarily decrease the symptoms that your pet is experiencing from heart failure. Unfortunately, because congestive heart failure in dogs is a degenerative condition, it tends to only get worse over time.

Most dogs will die within 1 to 2 years after diagnosis with heart failure. In severe cases, some dogs may not survive more than a few days or weeks after diagnosis with heart failure.

Sudden Hind Leg Paralysis

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

Sudden hind leg paralysis, and pain in the hind leg may be a sign of a blood clot. This is a very serious matter and you should contact an emergency veterinarian immediately.

Evidently, many of these signs are those that as humans, we associate with old age and so may not take too much notice off until they are more advanced, but it is always worth having a chat with your vet if your pet shows persistent changes in their behaviour, appetite or usual exercise. Cats are a little more challenging but older cats that spend more time sleeping, lose weight or who breathe more rapidly should certainly have a check up with the vet.

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What Is Murmur Grading How Does It Work

An important tool vets use to monitor a dogs heart murmur is to grade the murmur.

Grading is done on a sliding scale from 1 to 6. This is where grade I is the softest of murmurs, which is difficult to hear with a stethoscope even in a quiet room. Grade 6 is the loudest murmur possible, where the turbulent blood flow is so marked it can sometimes be heard with the naked ear.

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.

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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.

Treatment Of Heart Attack In Dogs

How to Recognize Congestive Heart Failure in a Dog

Initial treatment may involve resuscitation and supportive care, depending on seriousness of the event. The initial goal is to regain normal heart activity. Medications may be used to thin the blood for ease of circulation. Hospitalization is often necessary to continue heart monitoring until the veterinary staff is certain the pet is stable.

A variety of medications are available for cardiac abnormalities depending on the identified cause. Pacemaker implants are more widely available for canines predisposed to heart problems. Surgery may be required to remove any mass that may be obstructing blood flow to or from the heart. Thyroid hormone replacement medications are common and available. Various diets and medications may provide preventive/supportive care for renal disease if damage is not severe. Antibiotics may prevent further damage to vessels and heart lining resulting from infection or inflammation. Anti-arrhythmic medications can correct arrhythmias.

Once the pet has become stabilized, potential of recurrence is based on cause of the problem and severity of the myocardial infarction. Surgery and medications can extend the life of the pet for many years when the issue is diagnosed early and treated responsibly. Medications may need to be administered over the remaining life of the pet. In the case of collapse, your pet may need to remain in the hospital overnight or longer for monitoring.

Worried about the cost of Heart Attack treatment?

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What Is Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs

Congestive heart failure in dogs is a condition that refers to the inadequate function of the heart.

The main role of the heart is to pump blood to the rest of the body to help carry out vital functions.

When a dog has CHF, the heart is unable to do this properly.

This leads to a number of complications, all of which significantly impact a dogs life.

The two most common causes of CHF in dogs is mitral valve insufficiency and dilated cardiomyopathy.

MVI accounts for nearly 80% of all congestive heart failure cases, making it the prime culprit of canine heart disease.

There are multiple different forms of heart disease in dogs, but they all result in either right or left-sided heart failure.

Diagnosis Of Congestive Heart Failure Of Dogs

The veterinary doctor will want to find out the signs and symptoms that you have checked so far in the dog. The doctor will also need to be informative about the eating habit and the medications your dog take. If you are wondering how long can a dog live with heart failure, then you should know that it will depend on the diagnosis of the dog. Here us how the doctor will diagnose congestive heart failure in the dog.

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Diagnosis Of Heart Attack In Dogs

If you notice symptoms of a heart attack in your pet, keep calm and carefully wrap the pet in a blanket to calm him. Do not attempt CPR unless you have been professionally trained and know it is necessary. CPR can do more harm than good if it is not needed. Do not attempt to feed or give water in case of vomiting/asphyxiation. Keep young children away from the pet as pain and panic can cause aggressive behavior.

Calmly place your palm on the left side of the chest to feel the heart rate. Count the number of beats in 15 seconds and multiply your answer by 4. This gives you the number of beats per minute. Normal heart rate in dogs will be around 60-140 beats per minute depending on their size. Transport your pet to the veterinarian as soon as you can.

If your pet collapses, keep calm and carefully wrap her in a blanket and transport her to the veterinary clinic. Try to keep the events leading up to the collapse in your mind so you can report them to the veterinarian.

The veterinarian will collect any history as to what led up to the symptoms or collapse event. The vet will listen to the heart for any murmur, irregular pulse, or arrhythmia. Laboratory diagnostics can reveal valuable information as to cardiac function and possible causes of symptoms you are observing.

Heart Failure In Dogs: 6 Practical Tips From Veterinary Cardiologists

Signs And Symptoms Of Heart Disease In Dogs

Ashley B. Saunders


Dr. Saunders is a professor of cardiology at the Texas A& M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Her clinical and research interests include advanced imaging, interventional cardiology, and innovative teaching.

Sonya G. Gordon


Sonya G. Gordon, DVM, DVSc, DACVIM , is an associate professor of cardiology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences at Texas A& M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences where she is part of a busy progressive cardiology program. She is routinely an invited speaker at local, national and international veterinary meetings. Although she considers herself a clinician and teacher first her research interests include canine chronic valve disease, dilated cardiomyopathy, imaging, interventional procedures and clinical trials. She has published numerous manuscripts and book chapters and co-authored a practical small animal clinical cardiology book entitled The ABCDs of Small Animal Cardiology.

Heart failure in dogs is a complex condition. Despite multiple underlying causes and clinical manifestations, successful management is possible. This article describes heart failure in dogs, provides in-depth information about the most common diseases that lead to heart failure, and offers practical tips for diagnosis and management.

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Less Tolerant Of Exercise

Even if youre not a fan of exercise, you should be making sure your pet gets enough of it to stay healthy. One of the less obvious signs of heart disease may be your pets unwillingness to exercise. Its normal if theyre panting or breathing heavily after a vigorous round of play, but if it takes them a long time to recover or they dont want to play at all, this could be a sign that your pet needs a checkup.

Signs Of Heart Disease In Cats

We understand that it can be difficult to notice symptoms of heart disease in cats, when theyre so good at hiding illness. However, its important to watch out for symptoms of irregularities and illness in your cat anyway so that you get on top of whatever is causing their illness.

Here are some common signs of heart disease in cats:

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Treatment For Heart Disease In Dogs

Since heart disease is an umbrella term for any number of conditions that interfere with heart functions, treatments are wide-ranging and broad. Heart disease can be treated or managed through prescription medicines and supplements, dietary adjustments, and even surgical intervention depending on the condition and level of severity. As always, your first step should be to schedule a visit to your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.

With many acquired heart diseases, your vet is likely to recommend an angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitor, otherwise known as an ACE inhibitor, to help reduce the amount of stress on the heart. ACE inhibitors work to reduce pressure and blood volume. Additional drugs may also be prescribed to help manage heart disease.

Beta blockers, nitroglycerine, and digitalis can help reduce symptoms and improve your dogs quality of life. A diuretic may also be prescribed to manage any fluid accumulation around the lungs.

What Is Congestive Heart Failure

Common symptoms of heart failure in pets

Congestive heart failure is a term that refers to the heart’s inability to pump adequate blood to the body. There are many causes of CHF in dogs. The two most common causes are:

  • mitral valve insufficiency . MVI is a leaky mitral valve, which is the valve between the left atrium and the left ventricle.
  • dilated cardiomyopathy .

For further information on these specific causes, please see the handouts “Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Dogs” and “Mitral Valve Disease in Dogs”.

Clinical signs of CHF vary depending on whether the dog has left- or right-sided heart failure.

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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.

Is There A Certain Age When Dog Owners Should Become More Concerned About Heart Disease

Gordon says that heart disease in general is rare in dogs less than 5 years of age and increases in frequency as dogs age. But in some cases it can be earlier or even later in life, she says. And as in so many diseases and conditions, you might wonder if heart disease is more prominent in certain dog breeds. Gordon says that some purebred dogs have higher risks for specific heart diseases, but in general all older dogs have a risk of developing heart disease.

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Treating Heart Murmurs In Dogs

Not all heart murmurs require treatment. Simply keeping the dog slim and active, is all thats needed for grades 1 & 2.

With louder murmurs, there are medications which can support how the heart pumps and prolong a good quality of life. These drugs include angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, diuretics, and positive inotropes.

A particularly important medication is pimobendan This heart medication is unusual in that its been clinically proven to extend life when its started even before the dog becomes sick. However, its best started at a particular stage, where the heart is enlarged but the dog isnt showing signs of congestive heart failure.

To hit this sweet spot involves dogs with quiet murmurs being scanned every 6 12 months. This allows the cardiologist to detect the heart enlargement early to start the dog on pimobendan.

Prognosis Of Dogs With Congestive Heart Failure

Heart Disease In Dogs

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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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.

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