Canine Congestive Heart Failure


Congestive Heart Failure

Canine Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) is a complex and serious condition leading to the build-up of fluids in and around the lungs and other organs due to inefficient heart function.  CHF is a progressive, incurable disease resulting in excessive retention of water and salt causing fluid build-up in the lungs. and has many causes.  The major underlying cause being degeneration of the heart valves.  It is important to remember that a degeneration of heart valves is a common aging change in small breed dogs and that the presence of a heart murmur does not necessarily indicate heart failure. CHF occurs commonly in small dogs, who are especially susceptible to heart murmurs and therefore at greater risk of suffering problems due to a weakening heart in old age.

"There are three main signs to be aware of in dogs with congestive heart failure. These are exercise intolerance, labored breathing and coughing.  "It is important to provide your dog with a yearly check-up and allow your veterinarian to follow up on any abnormal findings."  A physical exam and a cardiovascular exam including chest radiographs, an electrocardiogram and in many cases an echocardiogram are usually performed.

Respiration rates are an additional method of monitoring your dog’s health. Counting your dog’s breaths per minute can help you assess your dog’s lung function and overall health.  When your dog is resting or sleeping, count the number of breaths he or she takes in 15 seconds. Multiply that number by 4 to get the number of breaths per minute. If the “resting” respiratory rate increases by more than 20 percent over 2 to 3 days, contact your veterinarian.

One of the first symptoms of CHF is a moist, sometimes gagging cough in an exerted or excited pet. This may be accompanied by exercise intolerance, a general lack of energy, and sometimes fainting spells. The CHF cough can easily be mistaken for kennel cough. Only a vet can determine if your pet has CHF.

Your veterinarian may recommend one or more of the following medical treatments:

Diet - a low sodium diet to restrict sodium intake.

If your dog has or is at risk for CHF, one of the best things you can do at home is to reduce and carefully monitor his sodium (salt) intake. Sodium causes water retention, the one thing your CHF pet doesn't need. Your veterinarian may recommend dog food that is nutritionally well-balanced and suitable for a dog with a heart condition. Some degree of sodium (salt) restriction may be recommended for some patients.
Even if your dog is healthy, keep him that way longer by putting him on a strict low-sodium diet now and stop feeding table scraps -- human food is loaded with salt (which isn't good for us either). If your dog turns his nose up, substitute a little low-sodium salt or add garlic powder (NOT garlic salt) to enhance flavour.

Helpful hint: if your dog has regular coughing fits while eating or (more commonly) drinking, try placing the food and water dishes up on a platform to raise them to your pet's chest level. Not having to bend down so far will reduce the stress on his heart and lungs, which should ease the cough reflex.

Exercise is important, but it’s recommended that you consult your veterinarian about the type, level, and frequency of exercise for your dog. If your dog collapses or seems weak during activity, you should consult your veterinarian immediately.
Diuretics - these are drugs that signal the kidneys to excrete excess sodium and water.  eg, furosemide.
Your vet may prescribe a diuretic to help shift fluids from the body, and/or heart medicine to help the heart pump blood more efficiently, further aiding the removal of fluids and enhancing overall health.

Dilators - these drugs either dilate arteries (to decrease stress on the heart), dilate veins (to decrease pressure on backside of heart and relieve congestion), or both.

ACE-inhibitors, or inhibitors of angiotensin-converting enzyme, are a group of medications that open up constricted blood vessels and are used primarily in the treatment of hypertension and congestive heart failure. Commonly prescribed ACE-inhibitors are enalapril, benazepril, and ramipril.

Enacard (also known as Vasotec, generic name enalapril) is currently one of the most popular heart medications for dogs with CHF. It is often prescribed alongside a diuretic like furosemide.  Kidney parameters (BUN and Creatinine) should be measured prior to enalapril use, again 3-7 days after enalapril therapy has started, and periodically thereafter.

Kidney function should also be rechecked after any dose change in the heart failure patient.  Enacard's benefits are proven, but it does come with the risk of inducing kidney (renal) dysfunction. Therefore, any dog placed on a diuretic and/or Enacard should have an initial blood test to check kidney function, another blood test 7-10 days after starting the drug(s), and thereafter on a regular basis.

If your dog is put on Enacard (enalapril) or a diuretic, demand regular blood tests if your vet isn't already doing them. Senior dogs (8 years +) should have regular blood tests regardless of their health as preventive medicine. The sooner CRF is caught, the more can be done to improve your pet's quality of life and longevity.  Enalapril is less effective in the presence of aspirin or other NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs).

Inodilators are medications that both increase myocardial contractility and open up constricted blood vessels, reducing the workload on your dog’s weakened heart. Currently, there is only one dual-acting inodilator available, Vetmedin® (pimobendan) Chewable Tablets.

Digoxin (Digitalis) - these drugs make the heart beat stronger, slow the heart, and reestablish normal cardiovascular responses.

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Canine Congestive Heart Failure

 Joann Henry

Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) is a clinical condition which is the final result of severe heart disease. It is usual that when a dog has heart failure, heart disease is also present in the body. However, it is true that in some cases, heart disease can be present, but never lead to congestive heart disease.

When high diastolic pressures in the heart build up into the veins and capillaries, then congestive heart failure can occur, which in turn causes a leakage of fluid out of those vessels.

Heart failure is the end result of many different cardiac and pericardial diseases. These include:

1.  Decreased myocardial contractibility. This is a weak heart muscle, which is commonly seen with dilated cardiomyopathy.

2.  Valvular regurgitation. This is a leak in one of the four heart valves, as seen with mitral and tricuspid regurgitation.

3.  Increased myocardial stiffness, which impairs the heart's ability to fill with blood.

In the beginning, the signs of congestive heart failure can be quite mild and difficult to see. However the symptoms can become more severe in a short space of time. Some of the symptoms to look for are:

1.   Lack of energy - the dog becomes much less active and tires quickly during the later stages of congestive heart failure;

2.  Poor appetite;

3.   Weight loss;

4.  Heavy breathing - the dog can show signs of difficulty in breathing, panting and coughing whilst resting;

5.   Coughing;

6.  Swollen abdomen - the dogs' stomach can enlarge as fluid accumulates in the liver and abdomen; and

7.  Change of mouth color - the color of the membranes of the mouth can be grayish rather than being a healthy pink color.

The first thing that is needs to be done though, is to manage the clinical signs of congestive heart failure by reducing the formation of edema and effusion and to increase the cardiac output, which is the delivery of blood to the tissues.

There are a wide variety of treatments available for Congestive Heart Failure, depending on the severity of the condition.

One of the most popular drugs used for this disease is Digitalis. This is a medication which belongs to a group called positive inotropic agents which help to increase the concentration of calcium in the heart muscle cells.

Diuretics are also another well known drug used for dogs with this condition. These drugs help to remove built up fluids that occur in the lungs and abdomen.

Monitor your dogs attitude and any changes in appearance when you spend time with your friend. It is essential to keep a diary of anything that varies from "the norm" so that you can show it to your vet.

 Check your dog on a daily basis for:

- breathing, see if it is heavy or labored;
- loss or reduction of appetite;
- restlessness;
- fainting; and
- profound lethargy.

However, it is important to remember, that canine congestive heart failure is a major disease and it is a necessity to have regular visits to your veterinarian to ensure that your dogs' needs are being met.

About the Author:
Joann Henry operates "Doggie Health Care", a blog all about our pooches health. Sign up to receive her newsletter, & not only will you get some free tips to keep your dog healthier, but FOR A LIMITED TIME, she'll give you a FREE ebook.
Article Source:



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chloebutton   talabutton

The above information is simply informational. It's intent is not to replace the advice of a veterinarian nor to assist you in making a diagnosis of your pet. Please consult with your own veterinarian for confirmation of any diagnosis. Your pets life may depend on it.