Dog Congestive Heart Failure Prognosis

Dog congestive heart failure occurs when fluid builds up in your dog's chest cavity and compresses his heart. It usually happens as a result of structural abnormalities in the heart muscle. Here's what you should know about canine congestive heart failure.

Causes of Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

There are a number of factors that can contribute to congestive heart failure in dogs. If your dog is born with congenital heart defects, that can contribute to congestive heart failure. Heartworm infestation can contribute to congestive heart failure, as can arrhythmia. Other causes of canine congestive heart failure include:

  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Degeneration of the valves of the heart
  • Pericardium diseases affecting the membrane around the heart

Dogs of any age, breed or gender can develop congestive heart failure. However, the large and giant breeds, which are also prone to dilated cardiomyopathy, are especially prone to congestive heart failure as a result of their condition.

Congestive heart failure usually occurs in older dogs, over the age of eight years. Younger dogs may develop this condition, though it's usually a result of birth defects in these animals. 

Symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

Congestive heart failure causes your dog to experience chronic fatigue, since it reduces the amount of blood being pumped through his body. He may accumulate fluid in his lungs, chest cavity and abdomen. Symptoms of congestive heart failure include labored breathing, coughing, shortness of breath, fatigue and weight loss.

Diagnosing Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

Your vet will perform a complete physical exam and take your dog's medical history, if he doesn't already have it. He may need to take X-rays, EKGs and ultrasounds to determine the extent of the damage to your dog's organs. Blood pressure measurements will give your vet an idea of how well your dog's heart is functioning at the time of the exam.

Treating Canine Congestive Heart Failure

Your dog may require hospitalization, especially if his heart failure is advanced. Your vet will administer diuretic drugs to help your dog excrete any accumulated fluid from his chest, lungs or abdomen. Nitroglycerin and enzyme inhibitors can help improve your dog's heart function. 

Your dog will need to go on a new, low sodium diet. Your vet may recommend dietary supplements. Your dog will also need to restrict himself to gentle exercise, since congestive heart failure can make him get tired very easily. Follow your vet's instructions and administer all medications as directed.

Congestive Heart Failure Prognosis for Dogs

Your dog won't show many symptoms until his congestive heart failure becomes advanced. By this time, it's generally too late for treatment to make any significant impact on your dog's health. While beta blockers and other drugs can help to slow the progression of many canine heart conditions, by the time your dog starts showing symptoms, his heart may be too damaged and drugs may not extend his life. Most dogs with congestive heart failure die within six months to a year of diagnosis.