Nothing is as bad as learning that your canine friend has congestive heart failure. Unfortunately, some dog breeds (whether small or large) are at risk of having this condition as they age. Luckily, this condition can be managed with proper treatment and change in lifestyle.
You can give your canine friend a new lease of life if you know the congestive heart failure symptoms, and by seeking treatment quickly, as you notice those symptoms.
What is Congestive Heart Failure?
As with humans, dogs can have heart problems. Your dog will be said to have congestive heart failure if they’re unable to pump blood to all the parts of the body. Instead, the blood returns into the lungs, causing accumulation of fluid in the chest. This affects the lungs and heart and prevents sufficient oxygen flow in the body.
What is the Cause of Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs
One of the leading causes of CHF in dogs is congenital heart issues. Unfortunately, this is a generic condition and can’t be prevented.
Congenital heart defects are common among many small dog breeds, including Pomeranians, toy poodles, cavalier King Charles spaniels, and dachshunds. Small dog breeds are prone to congestive heart failure because their heart valves degenerate more than larger breeds.
Even so, some larger breeds like Great Danes and St.Bernards are at a higher risk of getting congestive heart failure as their heart muscles are dilated. Since CHF manifests slowly, your dog might appear happy and healthy despite having this condition.
Common signs of congestive heart failure in dogs include:
- Constant panting
- Inability to exercise
- Difficulty breathing
- Coughing up blood
- Blue-tinged gums
Diagnosis and Treatment of CHF in Dogs
Your vet will examine your dog for any heart problem. They might refer you to a pet heart specialist if they detect any heart irregularities.
A pet cardiologist will perform chest X-rays and echocardiograms to check the condition of your dog’s heart. Your pet’s doctor might also perform blood and urine tests to determine whether your dog has other underlying medical issues.
Medical therapy will come in handy if your dog has difficulty breathing. If the breathing problem is deeper, the doctor might recommend hospitalization for your dog. Vetmedin is an FDA-approved medication for dogs with Congestive Heart Failure. It comes in the form of a tablet or pill and is administered every 12 hours. Your vet might recommend this medication if your dog has excess pressure on the heart. Vetmedin is a form of a vasodilator that helps relax your dog’s blood vessels. This way, your dog can efficiently pump blood to all body parts.
Depending on your dog’s condition, your vet may prescribe other medications to strengthen the contraction force in the heart to enhance blood flow.
Surgical Options for Dogs with Congestive Heart Failure
Your pet heart specialist may also recommend surgery if they notice a torn muscle. Most often, this involves inserting a pacemaker, a small device that can help correct heartbeat. Besides treating congestive heart failure in dogs, a pacemaker can also be used for fainting spells.
This device is inserted under your dog’s skin around the neck area and is connected to the dog’s heart by a pacing lead. It creates the heartbeat through the electric spark it delivers.
Your dog’s cardiologists will ask about your dog’s medical history before recommending pacemaker insertion. They’ll also look at the diagnostic tests from your vet, including chest x-rays, ECG, and blood tests.
Your dog will be hospitalized during the surgery. When discharged, they will have a large bandage around the neck. The bandage will protect your dog against infection and scratches. It will also help minimize head movement, which could otherwise cause displacement.
Your dog will also need to go for pacemaker programming from time to time. These visits are meant to check the battery life and the pacemaker to ensure it serves its purpose.
Besides the medications and surgery, lifestyle changes and management will also come in handy for a dog with congestive heart failure. Talk to your vet about the dietary requirements for your dog.
Depending on your dog’s needs, your vet will advise you on what food you need to avoid and the ones you need to feed your dog more. A well-balanced diet will give your dog all the nutrients that will enhance their overall health.
Ensure your dog is regularly checked by your vet and strictly follow the treatment plan.
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Hi there! My name is Ben Domb, an owner of two pets and I am one of the co-founders of OurPets HQ. I have several years of experience as a pet care professional in the New England region having spent time in various roles including a stint at a veterinary hospital in Upstate New York, Syracuse area. I am a certified pet care professional and mostly spend my time researching pet nutrition and sharing my thoughts in various blogs and columns. With quarantine and COVID restrictions, I have been spending a lot of time a lot with my dogs and cat and loving it! I also run a small consulting business providing advice to parents on pet nutrition, and especially safe homemade options to try. You can reach me at email@example.com