When we hear something like congestive heart failure, we automatically assume that it’s a human condition. However, CHF in dogs is surprisingly common. There are no preventive measures that can stop CHF and if the left untreated the condition is usually life threatening. However, not all is lost. Congestive heart failure in dogs can be detected in its earlier stages and with a proper treatment plan, it’s possible to extend the life of your pet and make sure it leads a comfortable life.
Preventing Congestive Heart Failure
While diet and lack of proper exercise can play a role, in most cases, CHF in dogs is pure bad luck. Some dogs are genetically predisposed to develop heart problems and there is no way of detecting that when they are young and healthy. Congestive heart failure can also be caused by heartworms. To eliminate that risk factor, it’s important to administer heartworm medication periodically, especially during heartworm season. Unfortunately, there is no real way to prevent congenital dog CHF.
What Dog Breeds Are at Risk of Getting Affected By Congestive Heart Failure?
While all dog breeds are susceptible to CHF, Dobermans Pinschers, Boxers, Spaniels, and Bulldogs have a slightly higher risk of developing the condition.
Signs of CHF in Dogs for Early Detection
There is no sugar-coating it. Detecting CHF in dogs is tricky and borderline impossible if you are simply going by the symptoms. To ensure an early treatment you need to detect the signs early and perform specific medical test. This means being constantly on guard for the subtlest of symptoms. Following is a comprehensive list of symptoms associated with congestive heart failure in pets.
- Rapid Breathing
- Fainting or Collapsing
- Sudden Weakness
- Unsettled During Sleeping or During Bedtime, Difficulty in Lying Down
- Swollen Abdomen
Diagnostic Tests to Confirm Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs
Chest X-Ray: By using low doses of radiation, it’s possible to get images of internal organs using X-ray. An abnormally enlarged heart is often a telltale sign of heart problems. The x-ray also reveals if the lungs are congested with fluid, which is commonly associated with CHF in dogs.
Echocardiography: Vets may also recommend an ultrasound test. This allows them to look at the cardiac rhythm as well as the shape and size of the heart.
EKG: Abnormal heart rhythm is a definite sign of heart problems which may or may not be congestive heart failure. This is usually a preliminary test to rule out heart issues.
Heartworm Test: Heartworm tests involve drawing a blood sample and testing it for heartworms. This helps vets to find out if the condition is caused by a heartworm infestation.
Non-Surgical Treatment Options
Depending on the stage, symptoms, and the degree of heart damage, there are a few different treatment options.
Inodilator Drugs: Vetmedin for dogs is probably the most popular drug prescribed by vets. These drugs are easily available at pet drug stores and online pharmacies. The reason why vets usually ask pet parents to buy Vetmedin for dogs suffering for CHF is that it’s effective in reducing stress to the heart. In reduces the workload of your pet’s heart by freeing up constricted blood vessels and boosting myocardial contractility (the ability of heart muscles to contract).
ACE Inhibitors: To reduce the cardiac workload, vets often prescribe ACE inhibitors to dilate the blood vessels. These are almost always prescribed for treating CHF and are available in easy-to-administer tablets.
Beta Blockers: One way to reduce cardiac workload is to reduce blood pressure. Beta blockers are effective oral medications that may be prescribed to achieve that.
Calcium Channel Blockers: These pet meds are used to relax and dilate the blood vessels and thereby reduce blood pressure. Depending on the circumstances, vets may prescribe this pet medication to treat CHF in dogs.
Heartworm Medication: If the cause of the condition is detected to be heartworms, then your vet would prescribe a heartworm medication to clear out the infestation and relieve the congestion.
Supplementation: Along with all the other medication, it’s not uncommon for vets to prescribe supplements. B vitamin and antioxidant supplements may be prescribed.