Canine Congestive Heart Failure - Cloud 9 Vets

Canine Congestive Heart Failure


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If you get told by your vet that your dog has congestive heart failure, you can be in for a worrying time. Unfortunately, instances of this condition are all too common for many breeds, both large and small. There is some hope, though, with early recognition and treatment, you can contain the symptoms and extend your dog’s life.

What Is Canine Congestive Heart Failure?

Congestive Heart Failure in dogs, often referred to as CHF, is when your dog’s heart cannot pump blood around its body. Blood then builds up in the lungs causing fluid in your dog’s chest or abdomen. This fluid has a compounding effect on the heart as less oxygen is flowing through its body.

Canine Congestive Heart Failure presents in two forms:

  • Right-Sided CHF. This type of canine CHF when blood leaks into your dog’s right atrium. The result is that circulation gets congested with blood and fluid builds in the abdomen, restricting organ function.
  • Left-Sided CHF. This form is the more common of the two. With this type of CHF, the fluid causes pulmonary edema (swelling), resulting in breathing difficulty and coughing.

What Are The Symptoms of Canine CHF?

When your dog has CHF, you can identify it through the following symptoms:

  • Breathing difficulty
  • Bluish gums
  • Collapsing
  • Coughing
  • Coughing blood
  • Fatigue
  • Lethargy
  • Panting
  • Sharp breathing
  • Swollen abdomen

What Are The Causes Of Canine CHF?

Many instances of CHF are genetic, particularly in smaller breeds. The reason for this is due to smaller dogs’ heart valves wearing out quicker than larger breeds. Larger breeds are not exempt, though, and degenerated heart valves generally cause CHF for bigger dogs. Dogs with weaker hearts can also cause CHF.

Treating CHF

For shortness of breath or other breathing issues, your vet may give your dog oxygen to help get them back into standard breathing patterns. The vet may be able to do this at home, or they may have to go to a hospital. Your dog is likely to need medications on a long-term basis to manage the condition. 

Ongoing Management of CHF

Besides having a programme of medications to follow, you will need to manage the condition in other ways. For instance, your pet is likely to need a low-sodium diet. It will also need one that includes all the vitamins and minerals that your dog needs.

Of course, you will need to ensure that you keep getting your dog checked-up by the vet. Also, it would be best if you kept a watch out for complications to other organs such as the kidneys and lungs.

You need to provide a stress-free environment for your pet. You can give your pet a moderate amount of exercise, but be careful not to overdo things.

Prognosis for CHF

Sadly, CHF has no cure, so ongoing treatment and management of the condition are all you can do to give your pet quality of life. With recent veterinarian advances, your dog will have a chance to extend its life from anything between a few months to years.

Identifying the condition early and getting your dog treated as soon as possible is critical if you are to extend your dog’s life. You may feel that you do not want to make your dog go through with the initial treatment and ongoing medical care. In this case, you might consider that putting your dog to sleep is in the best interests of your pet to avoid any suffering. If you do make this difficult decision, you’ll receive all the help and support you need during this traumatic time from highly trained, fully qualified, and caring professionals.

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by Daniel on July 30, 2020

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