Canine Congestive Heart Failure
Congestive Heart Failure
(CHF) is a complex and serious condition leading to the build-up of
and around the lungs and other organs due to inefficient heart
function. CHF is a progressive, incurable disease resulting in
of water and salt causing fluid build-up in the lungs. and has many
The major underlying cause being degeneration of the heart
It is important to remember that a degeneration of heart valves
a common aging change in small breed dogs and that the presence of a
heart murmur does not necessarily indicate heart failure. CHF occurs
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.