Heart Failure in Dogs: An Introduction

Heart failure can occur in dogs of any age or breed, though it's true that the giant breeds, such as the Great Dane, may be more prone to cardiomyopathy.

Congestive Heart Failure Explained

Congestive heart failure in dogs occurs when fluid builds up in or around the lungs (pulmonary edema), applying pressure to the heart. Fluid may accumulate either in the chest or abdominal cavity, and may cause shortness of breath and coughing. The pressure created by this built-up fluid impairs your dog's heart function and can lead to heat failure.

Congestive heart failure in dogs is sometimes the result of a birth defect in the heart. Sometimes dog heart failure is the result of cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease), heartworm, diseases of the pericardium (membrane around the heart), or arrhythmia. Many older dogs develop cardiomyopathy when their heart valve tissues degenerate with age.

Symptoms of Heart Failure in Dogs

Symptoms of congestive heart failure in dogs include coughing, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, and fatigue.

Treatment of Congestive Heart Failure

Treatment will vary depending on the cause of your dog's heart failure. It may involve diuretics such as the drug furosemide or nitroglycerine. A procedure called thoracocentesis may be used to drain the fluid from your dog's chest or abdominal cavity via needle.

After a diagnosis of heart failure, your dog will require a change of lifestyle and diet. You'll need to administer all medicines in strict accordance with your vet's instructions, and keep a record of his appetite and symptoms. Your dog will need to avoid excessive activity and excitement following a diagnosis of heart failure; heat, humidity, and high sodium foods are also to be avoided.