Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs: Symptoms and Remedies

This is certainly a sensitive topic for most dog owners and something we tend to avoid. However, we must not avoid educating ourselves about this illness instead we must familiarize ourselves with it. Especially since this is a serious risk to our pet’s lives given that heart disease is one of the top causes of dog deaths around the world. Through this article, we propose to educate the public and try to catch this disease in the early stages. Now, what is congestive heart failure (CHF)? Simply put, it is the inability of the heart to deliver adequate blood to the body of the canine.

heart failure in dogs

Types of Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

There are majorly two types:

  • Left sided (LS-CHF) –This is the most common kind of CHF in dogs and causes the flooding of the lungs and surrounding areas with blood. This is caused when the left atrium pumps blood but instead of the left ventricle delivering it to the rest of the body, ends up leaking it over to the left atrium. This blood then further leaks into the lungs causing an overflow and then other symptoms as well.
  • Right Sided (RS-CHF)–This is the less frequent but just as lethal form of the disease. Just like in the case of LS, the blood gets leaked into the right atrium and as a result the main circulation system get blocked. This blood further leaks into the abdomen interfering with organ function.

Causes of Congestive Heart Failure

The main reason for CHF in dogs is due to genetic defects and cannot be prevented. It is however more prevalent in smaller breeds such as Pomeranians, toy poodles, cavalier King Charles spaniels and dachshunds. This is because the heart valves tend to be weaker and hence more prone to deterioration. On the other hand, some larger breeds such as Newfoundland, St. Bernard and Great Dane are also prone to CHF due to dilated heart muscles. However, it is important to understand that genetic CHF generally reveals itself much later in a dog’s life. In many cases, these dogs are able to live many years healthy and happy before symptoms start to appear.

Another reason for developing this condition can also be because of a weak heart which can be caused by several lifestyle choices. So, it is very important to keep your dog healthy with regular exercise and nutrition, since obesity and a detrimental lifestyle can cause numerous problems for your pet and for yourself. Lastly, make sure you are regularly visiting the vet for a general check-up and hygiene related procedures, especially as your dog ages.

heart failure in dogs

Symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure

Following are some of the symptoms that are related to CHF and although these symptoms might not necessarily be caused by CHF, they can be cause for concern. If you feel any of them developing, you must consult a vet for further information and treatment.

  • Constant coughing
  • Constant panting
  • An increased respiratory rate
  • Struggling to breathe
  • Blue-coloured gums
  • Breathing at a fast rate, especially when in a resting state
  • Reluctance or refusal to exercise
  • Fatigue
  • Bloated abdomen
  • Coughing up blood
  • Getting tired more easily during any kind of physical activity
  • Fainting/Collapsing
  • Loud breathing

Also please understand that some of these symptoms might be completely normal and not a cause of any problems with your dog, but its always best to safe. We often see (even in humans) that the faintest of symptoms are often brushed under the rug until they become big problems staring at us. Please take your own and pet’s health seriously and practice caution for a happy and healthy life.

Diagnosis of Congestive Heart failure

Though CHF can be detected in the early stages, there are still a lot of medical tests that need to be conducted on part of the vet to diagnose with surety.

  • X-Rays – They will help determine the size and shape of the heart and surrounding organs. Also, X-Rays can determine whether or nor there is a liquid present.
  • Blood and Urine Tests – Since heart diseases would impair kidney and liver functions, these tests can help diagnose other diseases.
  • ECG – Electrocardiogram can help measure the accurate heart rate and rhythm to ensure there are no abnormalities.
  • Auscultation– This is the practice of listening to the heartbeat to get a sense of the dog’s health and detect any murmurs that might be present.

Remedies for Congestive Heart Failure

Traditional approaches:

  • Oxygen therapy – supplying oxygen as a means of medical aid
  • Heart monitoring
  • Blood pressure medicines
  • Blood pressure monitoring
  • Medicines to eliminate fluid from the body
  • Medicines to make the heart beat more effectively
  • Medicines to treat heart arrhythmias
  • Symptomatic supportive care
  • Sometimes, operations to remove fluid from the chest cavity or abdomen may be required

Non –traditional approaches:

  • Diet alteration –Some vets propose that modern dog food and diets are one of the major causes for such heart diseases. They propose that a more natural diet can very positively impact the heart condition of dogs.
  • Detoxification – it is believed that CHF is a symptom of other diseases that are sometimes harder to diagnose. So, in order to successfully treat CHF, there must be a complete detoxification of the body which can include treating the liver, changing the diet, flushing the system etc.
  • Homeopathy – A modern science that may not be the preferred route for every pet owner but is an option if it does in fact help your dog. Along with it, there are also energy medicine and tools that are part of the process.

In conclusion, please be on the lookout for the above-mentioned symptoms and ensure that you are vigilant to your dog’s behaviour. It is our duty to help and support these innocent creatures and provide them with the best treatment possible. However, we do sincerely hope that your little buddy is as healthy as a smile and if they are suffering from any disease, we hope they get well very soon.

Author Bio

Sid is a content and marketing consultant and is extremely passionate and excited about what he does. He loves his pet rabbit, Bruce and is also a music enthusiast.