Congestive heart failure in a dog is the result of an abnormality in the heart. The heart is unable to pump normal quantities of blood to the tissues in the body. When the heart is unable to do so, it often leads to fluid retention in the lung and other body cavities, leading to congestive heart failure.
Some of the causes of this serious heart condition can be a birth defect, degeneration of the heart valves, cardiomyopathy or disease of the heart muscle, heartworm disease, disease of the lining around the heart which is the pericardium and arrhythmia which is irregular heartbeats.
Heart disease and heart failure can affect any dog of any age. A dog with congestive heart failure will be fatigued due to the heart’s inability to pump blood to the muscles of the body. Most often the heart failure is due to an accumulation of fluid in the lungs, the chest cavity or abdominal cavity.
Besides the fatigue, some other signs of congestive heart failure are difficulty breathing, weight loss, shortness of breath and coughing.
Diagnosing the congestive heart failure also involves testing for any other underlying conditions as well. Tests will begin with a complete physical examination with emphasis on the heart and lungs. A chest x-ray will be taken as well as a blood pressure reading, an electrocardiogram (EKG) and an ultrasound examination of the heart.
Once your doctor has diagnosed the specific problem, a treatment plan will be put into place. Depending on the severity, your dog may require hospitalization, prescription of a diuretic, oxygen and other drugs such as nitroglycerine paste .
If fluid was found in the lungs, thoracocentesis may be required to insert a needle and drain the fluid. This helps your dog to breathe more comfortably.
One of the oldest drugs used to treat this condition is digitalis which belongs to a group called positive inotropic agents to increase the concentration of calcium in heart muscle cells and slow the hearts’ rate.
At home treatment per your veterinarian may include a prescription for a diuretic such as the drug furosemide or spironolactone. Your doctor may also prescribe an angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitor which blocks some of the harmful circulates around the heart.
Blood vessel dilators may also be used to tighten these blood vessels so more blood flows smoothly through them, allowing the heart to pump blood more efficiently.
Along with medications, a special sodium-restricted diet may be recommended by your doctor. Supplements can also help dogs with heart disease such as Taurine, L-carnitrine, fish oil and Hawthorne.
Early diagnosis can be the key to a better quality of life. Optimal treatment for congestive heart failure in your dog requires a combination of at-home and professional veterinary care. Heart disease unfortunately cannot be prevented but with a proper diet, supplements, exercise and lots of necessary love and attention, your dog may live a longer happier life.