Congestive Heart Failure Symptoms in Dogs

By | September 9, 2022

Our furry friends can also suffer from heart problems, just like us. One such terrifying heart problem in dogs is heart failure. Heart failure — also known as congestive heart failure — doesn’t mean the heart has stopped working. It’s when this vital organ faces trouble pumping blood, which is its most important function.

congestive heart failure in dogs

Fortunately, it’s not the end. Although congestive heart failure can be spotted over time, your dog can still live a happy and healthy life with proper and timely treatment. 

Symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

You must learn to recognize the symptoms and signs of CHF for its prompt treatment. The indicators of the disease may vary with the condition and severity, but here are some typical ones you should watch out for:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Persistent Coughing
  • Heavy panting
  • Difficulty in settling down
  • Lethargy
  • Bloated abdomen
  • Swelling of limbs
  • Bluish gums – due to lack of oxygen
  • Weight loss
  • Behavior changes
  • Exhaustion with minimal physical activity
  • Fainting/collapse

If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, speak to an emergency veterinarian immediately.

What Happens To a Dog’s Heart in Congestive Heart Failure?

CHF is the inability of a dog’s heart to pump blood throughout the body, leading to a backup of fluids in the lungs. This results in difficulty in breathing as the lungs can now no longer expand to their fullest, preventing the movement of oxygen in the bloodstream. As the symptoms progress, dogs exhibit more symptoms like heavy panting and exhaustion. Dogs with CHF are also at a higher risk of fainting as blood flow may not reach the brain and it may face a lack of oxygen.

Types of Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

The right side of your dog’s heart pumps blood to the lungs, while the left side of the heart circulates blood throughout the body. CHF can be of different types depending on which side of the heart is affected. Both right-sided and left-sided CHF eventually result in the depletion of oxygen in the body and heart failure.

1. Left-sided congestive heart failure

The left side of a dog’s heart collects pure, oxygenated blood and pumps it out to circulate it to various organs. As a result of fluid accumulation in the lungs, a backup pressure is created in the vessels carrying blood to the left chambers of the heart, leading to symptoms like coughing and difficulty in breathing. Dogs may exhibit symptoms like fainting or collapse in the final stages of congestive heart failure due to a lack of oxygenated blood in the brain.

2. Right-sided congestive heart failure

The right side of a dog’s heart pumps impure or deoxygenated blood to the lungs to purify or oxygenate it. But when the right side of the heart is affected or when a valve is dysfunctional, the heart is unable to do this. This builds up pressure in the blood vessels that carry blood to the heart, causing fluid buildup in the abdomen.

3. Biventricular failure

When both the left and right sides of the heart are affected, it leads to biventricular failure.

Causes of Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

CHF in dogs can occur for various reasons. Some of the most common causes of CHF are as follows:

  • Congenital heart defects
  • Bacterial infections
  • Dysfunctional valve
  • Enlarged heart or hole in the heart
  • High blood pressure
  • Endocarditis
  • Heartworm disease
  • Tumours
  • Pregnancy
  • Heart wall defects
  • Thyroid
  • Nutritional deficiencies

Treatment of Heart Failure in Dogs

Sadly, there is no cure for congestive heart failure in dogs. However, the underlying symptoms must be treated by following regular treatment protocol given by the veterinarian. Apart from the treatment, your veterinarian may also suggest lifestyle management of your dog like dietary changes, moderation of physical activities, etc.

You can comfort a dog with congestive heart disease using several treatments like medications, nutritional supplements, diets, stress control, etc and, by improving their overall wellbeing.

 Although the reality is that this condition poses a threat to your dog’s life, early diagnosis and the right care can greatly reduce this risk.