Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

Like humans, dogs can also suffer from several health conditions. With this, you should take care of them to maintain their overall health.

In this post, we will discuss congestive heart failure in dogs.


Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs


What is congestive heart failure?

Congestive heart failure in dogs is the condition wherein the heart cannot pump sufficient blood to the body. It is usually caused by:

  • Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)
  • Mitral Valve Insufficiency (MVI)
  • CHF includes abnormalities of heart muscles, heart valves, or blood vessels to exit to enter the heart. If the condition progresses, there can be a fluid buildup in the abdomen, chest, and lungs.


Congestive heart failure signs

The signs of congestive heart failure in dogs can depend on the underlying heart disease. These signs include the following:

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing
  • Fainting
  • Persistent coughing
  • Inability to exercise
  • Lack of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen belly because of fluid buildup
  • Increased heart rate
  • Weight loss
  • Difficulty in settling down and pacing before bedtime
  • Crackling sound if listening to the lungs

If you observe some of these signs in your pet, you should immediately seek the help of a veterinarian.


Diagnosis of congestive heart failure

Congestive heart failure in dogs can be diagnosed through several tests:


Chest x-ray

It is done to evaluate your dog’s heart shape and size and look for lung changes like the presence of fluid.



This test is listening to the heart using a stethoscope. It was the first thing to diagnose heart disease. With auscultation, heart murmurs can be detected. The intensity and murmur location can help for its significance.

After assessing the heart rhythm, the vet simultaneously palpates the pulse to identify its rhythm and strength. Lastly, the lungs will be evaluated to determine evidence of changes related to heart failure.


Blood and urine tests

These tests are conducted to provide an indication of body disorders. Kidney and liver function is usually impaired among dogs with heart disease.


Ultrasound examination or echo-cardiogram

This test uses ultrasound waves for heart evaluation. The thickness and size of each heart chamber can be evaluated.

Additionally, the heart’s contractions effectiveness can also be observed. Measurements are also performed for the evaluation of the heart’s pumping efficiency.

Electrocardiogram or ECG

ECG measures the heart’s electrical activity. It also provides an accurate determination of heart rhythm and rate. The test can detect and evaluate abnormal rhythms (dysrhythmias or arrhythmias).

Heartworm antigen test

With this test, abnormal proteins produced by heartworm can be detected.


Stages of congestive heart failure

Congestive heart failure comes in four stages.


Stage 1

The heart of the dog begins to deteriorate.


Stage 2

You can start to observe symptoms such as shortness of breath, panting, and fatigue, especially after exercise.


Stage 3

Shortness of breath and fatigue can happen more often, even during short walks. Wheezing and coughing can also start.

Since the dog’s heart doesn’t pump efficiently, there can be a buildup of fluid in the chest that leads to difficulty in breathing.


Stage 4

It is the final stage of congestive heart failure. The dog can suffer from difficulty in breathing even at rest.

In addition, there can be an accumulation of fluid in the different parts of the body that can cause swollen bellies or legs. With that, the dog can also find it hard to walk. It can also lead to vomiting.


Can congestive heart failure shorten the lifespan of your dog?

The lifespan can depend on the cause of your pet’s heart disease and its severity. There’s a possibility that heart failure can shorten your dog’s lifespan.

You should obtain the proper diagnosis to start the right medication. You can monitor the health of your dog through regular physical exams.


What dog breeds are at high risk of developing congestive heart failure?

Some dog breeds are at high risk of heart disease. Old larger breeds like Great Danes, Doberman Pinschers, and Irish Wolfhounds are more at risk for dilated cardiomyopathy.

In the case of degenerative valvular disease, small older breeds can be at high risks, such as King Charles Cavalier Spaniels and Chihuahuas.


Congestive heart failure treatment

Usually, there is no cure for congestive heart failure. However, there are some treatments to provide your dog with good life quality.

The following are some suggested supplements, medications, and diets to treat congestive heart failure in dogs.



It can stimulate the kidneys to eliminate the excess buildup of fluid in the abdomen and lungs.


ACE inhibitors (benazepril, enalapril, captopril)

It can lower blood pressure and volume, relieve heart stress and slow the deterioration of heart muscles.


Reducing the sodium amount in your dog’s diet can lower fluid buildup in the body. You can give your dog supplements such as taurine, vitamin B, and carnitine with antioxidants, including coenzyme Q10.

Meanwhile, you should consult a veterinarian before providing your pet with supplements. It is also essential to maintain your dog’s healthy weight to improve heart health.

Vasodilators and positive inotropic drugs

Positive inotropic drugs can boost the force of the dog’s heart muscle beats so that the heart can pump more blood to the body, especially to the lungs. Vasodilators can reduce heart pressure and relax blood vessels.


Management and recovery for congestive heart failure in dogs

Fortunately, a dog with congestive heart failure can still enjoy a happy life. Make sure to provide your pet with medications, a proper diet, good overall care, and monitored exercise to enhance its health.

Regular checkups are also necessary to monitor the condition of your dog. It also helps to assess the effectiveness of treatments.



Congestive heart failure can be heartbreaking for you as a pet parent. With that, you should be responsible for maintaining the overall health of your dog.

It is also highly recommended that you consider getting your dog the best pet insurance possible, as 70% of emergency treatments are not performed due to the owner’s financial constraints, with pet insurance, you’re covered and worry-free.

Congestive heart failure can affect the lifespan of your dog. However, there are many alternatives to provide a quality and happy life to a dog with this condition.

If you observe some signs of this heart disease, take your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

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