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Knowing the Fundamentals of CHF in Dogs Can Save Your Pet’s Life

The threat of heart problems in dogs is very real and one that’s not easily detected. Congestive heart failure in dogs is not really a disease. It instead is a condition that might manifest following a disease or defect.

Even if you are not a medical professional, it’s not complicated to decode what the term congestive heart failure might mean. Congestion describes the clogging up of arteries and valves resulting from fluid accumulation, lipid buildup, or heartworms. Heart failure is the result of that congestion which is lowering of cardiac output. Simply put, congestive heart failure in dogs is a cardiac condition that impairs the regular performance of the heart which is caused by some type of a blockage that hinders blood flow.

What Causes Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs?

While there are several diseases and defects that might lead to CHF in dogs, degenerative mitral valve disease is the most common cause. This disease is often congenital and it slowly progresses and can eventually lead to congestive heart failure. Apart from hindering the normal cardiac functions, it can also lead to edema (fluid build up) of the lungs. CHF can also be caused by heartworms. In advance stages of heartworm disease, adult worms clog up the arteries and valves in the heart which leads to CHF.

Clinical Signs of CHF

In a lot of cases, clinical signs are hard to detect as they are misconstrued as trivial or regular health issues. Being on the lookout for a combination of these clinical signs can help you detect congestive heart failure early. Early detection and treatment are critical as it maximizes the chances of survivability. Following are few of the clinical signs that may indicate the presence of congestive heart failure in dogs.

  • Coughing
  • Reluctance to Exercise
  • Swollen Abdomen
  • Trouble Sleeping or Laying Down at Night
  • Extended Periods of Drowsiness and Lethargy
  • An Accelerated Rate of Breathing
  • Bluing or Graying of Gums
Medical Tests to Detect Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

Once you suspect your dog has congestive heart failure, it’s important to waste no time in confirming your hunch. The only way to do that is to schedule an appointment with a qualified vet. Instead of rushing your pet to a dog cardiologist it’s best to go to a general veterinarian. That’s because these clinical signs may also be the result of non-cardiac health issues. Allow the vet to follow a proper diagnostic process to zero in on the problem instead of drawing your own conclusions.

Vets can confirm CHF in dogs by conducting one of many tests. The first thing your vet is going to do is take a stethoscope and listen to the cardiac rhythm. Vets may recommend X-ray to detect fluid buildup and to determine the size of the heart. An enlarged heart is a clear sign of cardiac problem, which would warrant further investigation. ECG is also a commonly prescribed test to rule out abnormal heart rate and rhythm.

Treatment of Congestive Heart Failure

Depending on the condition of your pet, your vet may recommend oxygen therapy. This is usually recommended for dogs suffering from severe difficulty in breathing brought on by an advance stage of congestive heart failure.

Vets often prescribe diuretics to drain the fluid buildup in organs. Vetmedin for dogs with CHF, which is a popular inodilator is also recommended. Vets may also prescribe ACE inhibitors to control blood pressure and reduce cardiac stress.

Surgical treatment of congestive heart failure is often not recommended. A high-risk surgical procedure to repair mitral valve (if the cause of CHF is mitral valve disease) may be recommended for terminally ill pets. However, not all pet clinics recommend or are equipped to perform such procedures.

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