ACE Inhibitors for Congestive Heart Failure Treatment in Dogs

The medications used in canine congestive heart failure treatment are ACE inhibitors, diuretics and drugs such as digitalis. Supplements such as vitamin-B, taurine and coenzyme Q are also found to be beneficial.

Congestive Heart Failure

As a dog ages, the muscles of the heart weaken and his heart fails to pump efficiently. There is an insufficient amount of blood pumped through the dog’s body. To compensate for the insufficient blood supply, the heart beats faster resulting in more damage. This slowing of the heart leads to a condition known as congestive heart failure or CHF. The condition can also strike younger dogs and may be hereditary. CHF is fatal as there is still no known cure.

Symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure

Symptoms of congestive heart failure in dogs include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fainting after mild exercise
  • Discoloration of the gums and tongues of a bluish color
  • Pale colored gums
  • Decrease in physical activity
  • Coughing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Rapid breathing
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Loss of weight
  • Impaired function of the liver, lungs and kidneys 
  • Labored breathing

Treatment of Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

You should feed your pet a low salt diet if he has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure. You will have to administer medications that improve heart function and reduce fluid accumulation in the lungs. Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE) inhibitors inhibit the action of the enzyme Angiotensin. This enzyme causes the constriction of blood vessels and increases the pressure on the heart.

ACE inhibitors inhibit this action and allow the blood vessels to dilate allowing blood to flow easily through them and reducing the amount of work the heart has to do. These medications thus help reduce blood pressure and volume, ease the stress on the heart, and halt its deterioration.

ACE Inhibitors

ACE inhibitors such as enalapril maleate, lisinopril and benazepril are sold under the brand name of Enacard, Prinivil and Fortekor respectively. ACE inhibitors have improved the clinical signs of canine congestive heart failure and increased the life expectancy of affected dogs. These drugs can be given on an empty stomach or with food.

Side Effects of ACE Inhibitors

Side effects of ACE inhibitors include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Impaired kidney function
  • Increase in potassium levels in the blood
  • Hypotension 
  • Abnormalities in blood and urine tests

Usual Dosage of ACE Inhibitors

If you have to administer enalapril to your pet, the usual dosage is 0.5 mg for every kilogram of body weight twice a day. Benazepril should be given only once daily and the recommended dosage is 0.25 to 0.5 mg for every kilogram of body weight. Dogs medicated with ACE inhibitors show decreased pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs) and a lower class of heart failure.

It is possible for your pet to live a full life for many years even after being diagnosed with congestive heart failure if you administer the proper medications, monitor his diet, ensure he has no salt in his food and restrict his exercise to gentle exercise only. You should also ensure that he is regularly checked by the vet as a pet with CHF should be monitored regularly.