Symptoms of Congestive Heart Disease in Dogs

Congestive heart disease in dogs is a serious condition that should be treated promptly. Heart disease or failure occurs when the function or structure of the heart becomes irregular. When this happens, the heart usually loses the ability to pump blood and function properly, causing numerous health problems. When left untreated, congestive heart disease can lead to complete heart failure and death. The disease is common in older dogs, but can still occur in young dogs as well. 

Causes of Congestive Heart Disease in Dogs

Congestive heart disease in canines can be caused by numerous conditions. The most common causes of the disease include the following:

  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Heartworm disease
  • Birth defects
  • Problems in the heart valves
  • Diseases affecting the lining of the heart
  • Heart arrythmia

Common Symptoms of Congestive Heart Disease in Dogs

If your pet is suffering from congestive heart problems, the following signs and symptoms may be present:

  • Significant weight loss
  • Lack of energy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty with breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sleepiness
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Decrease in activity and energy levels
  • Severe coughing at night
  • Night restlessness
  • Abdominal swelling

Some of the earliest signs of congestive heart disease include lack of energy and fatigue. Severe coughing and abdominal swelling are usually only present in the later stages of the disease. Because of this, it is important for pet owners to watch for the early signs of heart disease in their pets, and to visit a veterinarian as soon as they notice anything abnormal. The sooner the condition is diagnosed and treated, the better the prognosis will be for your pet. Your pet may be sleepy or lethargic for other reasons not related to heart disease, but it is always best to investigate the problems to rule out any serious health issues. 

Diagnosing Canine Congestive Heart Disease

When pet owners notice any of the signs or symptoms of congestive heart disease, they should contact a veterinarian as soon as possible. A veterinarian will then examine your pet's complete medical history and will listen to the heart, checking for heart murmurs or any irregularities within the heart. They will also look for an accumulation of moisture in the lungs. Other tests for diagnosing heart disease in canines can include x-rays of the chest, ECG testing, and echocardiograms. Your veterinarian will also look for any underlying cause of congestive heart failure, such as heartworms or cardiomyopathy. 

Treating Congestive Heart Disease in Dogs

Once your pet has been diagnosed with congestive heart disease and the condition has been established, he will need to be treated properly to ensure recovery. Treatment will depend upon the underlying cause of the disease, and how advanced the condition is. Unfortunately, even if your pet is diagnosed, it may be too late for treatment if the disease is in an advanced stage. All dogs with congestive heart disease should be put on a special diet that is high in nutritional value, and low in salt and fat. Even though your pet has congestive heart disease, it does not mean he won't live a comfortable life. Many dogs with the disease go on to live months, and even years, with the proper treatment.