Heart Failure In Dogs: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Heart failure in dogs: causes, symptoms and treatment

Diagnoses of heart failure in dogs are becoming more common. Especially in middle-aged to old dogs. There is no cure, but by making an early diagnosis, you enable a more effective treatment that guarantees a good quality of life. In this article, you can learn more about this heart defect and its consequences.

The English term ” congestive heart failure ” is a term that describes several conditions related to a weak heart. It is also referred to as heart failure. The term “failure” can be used on any organ that is not functioning properly due to a medical condition. In heart failure , the heart  cannot pump enough blood into the body. 

To maintain balance, the body activates special mechanisms to ensure that oxygen reaches organs and tissues. However, the intense pain can overwhelm this function. Heart failure affects  humans, dogs and cats in a similar way.

heart failure in dogs
Source: Soggydan Benenovitch

According to national and international data, the American Heart Association has found that  close to six million people live with heart failure in the United States alone.

The most common cause of heart failure in dogs is severely dilated cardiomyopathy. This medical condition weakens the heart walls. In bitches, pregnancy can cause a breakdown of walls and arches in the heart.

This medical condition is also associated with the following factors:

  • An accumulation of fluid in the pericardium
  • Heart valve disease
  • Heartworm, ( Dirofilaria immitis  – a parasite that lives in the heart)
  • Altered heart rhythm
  • Hypertension
  • Infection of the heart valves, (endocarditis)
  • Heart tumor

Heart failure can affect the right, left or both sides of the heart. The cause of the condition will determine what the treatment will be and how the condition develops. If the right side is affected, the blood that is not pumped around will collect in the abdomen.

If the  heart failure originates from the left side, it will lead to an accumulation of fluid in the lungs. In both cases, this accumulation is very dangerous because it can cause blood clots and bleeding.

In addition,  heart failure in dogs can lead to a gradual enlargement of the left ventricle. This is usually called an “enlarged heart”. In severe cases  , the heart is so weak that it can not pump blood around the whole body.

The most obvious symptom is fluid retention in different parts of the body. It often creates visible swelling. A dog can often appear to have a ball stomach due to enlargement of the abdomen.

Other typical symptoms include:

  • Fatigue, lack of interest and weakness
  • Cough and difficulty breathing
  • Altered heart rhythm or intolerance to physical activity
  • Repeated fainting
  • Changes in the color of the gums (gray or blue tones)
  • Collapse

These signs become more and more obvious as the disease progresses,  and are caused by the progressive weakening of the structure of the heart. Therefore, an early diagnosis is important to ensure effective treatment and increase the dog’s longevity.

You should take your dog to the vet immediately if you notice any of the above symptoms. This is to  make an examination and necessary samples.

Diagnosis of heart failure involves doing the following tests:

  • Blood: to detect heartworm
  • Blood pressure and physical test
  • X-ray of the chest
  • Electrocardiogram – ECG
  • Echocardiogram: to examine the anatomy and function of the heart structure
Heart failure can make the dog really tired
  • A specific treatment depends on the dog’s health condition and the origin of the medical condition. If the dog has been diagnosed with a heartworm, it needs an immediate deworming treatment to get rid of them.
  • Almost all dogs diagnosed with heart failure need to take medication for the rest of their lives. This will allow them to live a comfortable life. However, they need to make return visits once every six months.
  • If the condition is advanced, the dog must be interned and receive oxygen treatment. If fluid has accumulated in the lungs or abdomen, controlled aspiration will be needed.

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