Your Dog Has Congestive Heart Failure - Now What?
Congestive heart failure is a difficult diagnosis for dogs and their owners. While there is very little you can do to stop congestive heart failure altogether, it is possible to slow the process and make your dog more comfortable so you can enjoy a little more time together. Now that you have the diagnosis, here is what you can expect from your dog's congestive heart failure.
What is congestive heart failure?
Congestive heart failure is a term used to describe a heart that is unable to do its job any longer - more specifically, the heart cannot pump blood throughout the body. It is usually caused by a valve insufficiency, either in the left or right side of the heart. However, there are other possible causes as well.
What are the signs of congestive heart failure in dogs?
As the condition progresses, you may notice that your dog's symptoms get worse. The most common signs of congestive heart failure include:
- Excessive tiredness or sleepiness
- A frequent cough
- Lack of appetite
- Fainting spells
- Difficulty sleeping, especially for dogs who sleep on their sides
- Lethargy or reduced exercise or inability to exercise at all
- Fluid in the abdomen or a swollen stomach
Usually, your dog will exhibit one or two signs such as coughing and tiredness, and the other symptoms will appear as the condition progresses. With proper treatment, however, it is possible to slow the disease and reduce symptoms overall.
Can congestive heart failure be corrected?
Unfortunately, it is not possible to completely reverse congestive heart failure. Surgery is generally not a viable option, and your dog's vet will likely recommend ways to treat the symptoms only, which will give your dog some relief. Some of these treatments may also slow the progression of congestive heart failure, possibly extending your dog's life.
What are the treatment options for canine congestive heart failure?
The main goal of CHF treatments is to reduce fluid around the heart so it can function more efficiently, pumping blood to the lungs and other organs. The secondary goal of CHF treatments is to reduce symptoms for your pet so they are more comfortable. The most common CHF treatments include:
ACE inhibitors are drugs which dilate blood vessels so blood can pass more easily, which means the heart doesn't need to work so hard to do its job properly. They are a very common treatment for CHF, and they are often used in conjunction with other treatment options.
Diuretics are often used alongside other treatments to help remove some of the fluid build up with congestive heart failure.
Digoxin helps the heart contract and is commonly used for CHF.
Calcium Channel Blockers
Calcium channel blockers help relax heart muscles and maintain a steady heart rhythm with fewer disturbances. They may also be used to slow the heart rate.
Beta-blockers are used to slow the heart rate, reduce the demand for oxygen, and maintain a normal heart rhythm.
Inodilators such as Vetmedin Chewable Tablets may be used to strengthen the heart muscle while also making it easier for blood to flow through the surrounding blood vessels. These are relatively new medications that are providing significant relief from CHF for dogs. If your vet happens to prescribe Vetmedin or a comparable inodilator, you can go here to find affordable options, as these types of treatments can be quite pricey if bought at the vet’s office.
Your dog's vet may prescribe any combination of the above medications to help manage your dog's CHF symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.
While you're likely concerned about your pet's diagnosis, you should never give up hope that your pet can lead a long, happy life. With proper rest, treatment, and a positive mindset, many dogs with CHF live for a year (or much longer) after the initial diagnosis. If you have any questions or concerns, contact your dog's veterinarian for advice or assistance.