Congestive heart failure in dogs occurs when the heart's structure has an abnormality. The disease prevents the heart from pumping the normal amounts of blood around the dog's body, causing the heart to overwork and fail. If caught early, the disease is often manageable, but when the disease goes undetected the symptoms can become advanced.
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The symptoms of congestive heart failure in a dog include coughing, shortness of breath, weight loss and fatigue. As the disease advances, other symptoms such as blue tongue, excessive drooling and collapsing may be present. The disease is usually caught by a veterinarian during a yearly checkup before it reaches the advanced stage,
Congestive heart failure has a number of causes in dogs. These include birth defects, heart muscle disease, heartworm disease, disease of the heart's lining, degeneration of the heart valves and arrhythmia (irregular heart rhythms). The disease is common in older dogs, as well as small-breed dogs.
The amount of time a dog lives after being diagnosed with congestive heart failure depends on how suddenly the disease came about. Dogs with sudden-onset congestive heart failure live for less time than those whose disease developed gradually. The cause of the congestive heart failure also affects the dog's longevity. Dogs with congestive heart failure should be checked by a vet every three to six months.
Treatment for congestive heart failure in dogs depends on its cause. Treatment might include a diuretic (water pill), oxygen, nitroglycerine paste, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor (hormone blocking drug that prevents salt retention), a special, low-sodium diet, or dietary supplements.
While congestive heart failure in dogs cannot always be prevented, it can be managed if caught early. Limiting physical activity can prevent the disease from progressing too quickly, as can avoiding extreme heat and humidity, and avoiding treats that are high in sodium.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.