Overview of Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) in Dogs
Heart failure is a condition, caused by an abnormality in the structure or the function of the heart, in which it is unable to pump normal quantities of blood to the tissues of the body. The heart is a pump, and when it fails, it often leads to fluid retention in the lung and the body cavities leading to congestive heart failure.
There are many causes of heart failure in dogs, including:
Dogs of any age and any breed can develop heart failure. There is certainly a predisposition for heart failure caused by cardiomyopathy in giant canine breeds. Many older, small breed dogs develop heart failure from abnormal function of the heart valves as the valve tissue degenerates.
Heart failure affects your dog by reducing the amount of blood that is pumped to the muscles, leading to fatigue. In addition, most cases of heart failure are associated with the accumulation of fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema), the chest cavity (pleural effusion), or the abdominal cavity (ascites). This fluid accumulation can lead to shortness of breath and other problems such as coughing and difficult breathing.
What To Watch For
Some of the symptoms of heart failure, and the progression of heart failure in a dog, are related to increased activity of the nervous system and to increased concentrations of circulating hormones (and related chemicals). These include:
Diagnosis of Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) in Dogs
Your veterinarian may suspect CHF after examining your dog, but he will probably run several diagnostic tests to confirm the diagnosis and underlying cause. Tests may include:
Treatment of Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) in Dogs
Treatment for congestive heart failure will vary depending on the underlying cause. This may include one or more of the following:
At home, administer all veterinary prescribed medications on a regular basis. Be aware of your dog’s general activity, exercise capacity and interest in the family activities. Keep a record of his appetite and ability to breathe comfortably (or not), and note the presence of any symptoms such as coughing or severe tiring.
Do not stop medication or change the dosage without checking with your veterinarian. Most medications are for the life of your dog. And never withhold water, even if your pet urinates more than normal, unless specifically instructed to do so.
Difficult breathing is usually an emergency. See your veterinarian immediately.
In general, heart failure cannot be prevented, although early diagnosis of the underlying cause can provide an improved quality of life. Once diagnosed, you should prevent excessive physical activity or excitement, avoid high heat/humidity and avoid high salt (sodium) foods or treats.
In-depth Information on Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) in Dogs
Congestive heart failure leads to inadequate blood flow to the tissues of the body, resulting in lethargy and fatigue. Accumulation of fluid often impairs breathing. When the fluid accumulates in the lungs (pulmonary edema) or around the lungs (pleural effusion), the condition can become life threatening. Though dramatic, the symptoms of congestive heart failure are not specific for only that condition.
As there are dozens of reasons for coughing, difficult breathing and fatigue; therefore, your veterinarian will formulate a diagnostic plan to make a correct diagnosis.