Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs: Symptoms and Remedies

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Just like humans, dogs can experience Congestive Heart Failure usually in the later stages of life. However, some dogs could possibly be born with heart defects that might lead to Congestive Heart Failure.

What is Congestive Heart Failure? According to an article published by the Ryan Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania, “Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a clinical syndrome that describes the end result of severe heart disease.”*

What happens when a dog has Congestive Heart Failure? Your dog’s heart is no longer able to pump out the volume of blood it receives. When this happens fluid gathers in the body typically in the chest cavity or in the belly. If the fluid gathers around the lungs it could cause your dog to have difficulty breathing. If this occurs, your dog requires immediate medical attention. Fluid accumulation in the belly can be tolerated for some time, but it should not go untreated.

How can I tell if my dog is suffering from Congestive Heart Failure? If your dog has Congestive Heart Failure, it most likely exhibits one or more of the following symptoms: difficulty breathing, increased respiratory rate, excessive coughing, reduced desire to exercise, a distended belly, loss of appetite, weight loss, pacing before bedtime, or fainting spells.

How is Congestive Heart Failure in dogs treated? Only your veterinarian will be able to recommend an appropriate method of treatment based on your dog’s condition. However, most treatment requires the draining of the accumulated fluid, reducing arrhythmias, and improving heart function.  In addition, your veterinarian might recommend a low sodium diet, and a mild exercise regimen.

Your veterinarian might prescribe Vetmedin is an effective medication for the treatment of Congestive Heart Failure in dogs, and it is the only FDA approved medication for Congestive Heart Failure. According to a report from the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), “VETMEDIN® is the first drug CVM has approved to treat congestive heart failure in dogs in more than 10 years. VETMEDIN® helps alleviate signs of heart failure by increasing the force of the heart muscle contraction and by dilating blood vessels to decrease resistance to blood flow.”**

Your veterinarian might also prescribe: Salix tablets to help treat heart failure, Sotalol to treat arrhythmia, and Spironolactone for the treatment of high blood pressure.

To Sum it Up: Congestive Heart Failure in dogs is the result of heart disease.  The dog’s heart cannot pump out the amount of blood it receives. Therefore, there is an accumulation of fluid that builds up around the dog’s chest area or belly. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, loss of appetite, weight loss, distended belly, fainting, restlessness, and an aversion to exercise. If your dog starts to experience one or more of these symptoms, take your four-legged friend to a veterinarian right away. Treatment might include draining the fluid, administering medication to reduce arrhythmia and improving the heart function, a low sodium diet, and an exercise program.

*Source: Understanding Congestive Heart Failure. (2013, July 24). Retrieved from  Accessed on 3/2/2016

**Source: Center for Veterinary Medicine Fiscal Year 2007 Annual Report. (2007, September 30)  Accessed on 3/4/16

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