Congestive heart failure in dogs

Vet’s Voice

CONGESTIVE heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to pump an adequate amount of blood, causing an increase in pressure and fluid that eventually leaks out into the lungs or abdomen.

It is not a disease itself but rather a condition that occurs as the result of severe heart disease. The accumulation of fluid in a pet’s lungs (called pulmonary oedema) or around the lungs (pleural effusion) hinders the normal expansion of the lungs and prevents oxygen from properly moving into the blood stream. As a result, the animal will take deep and rapid breaths in order to get enough oxygen.

Breeds predisposed to degenerative valvular disease (DVD) and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) are most commonly affected. DVD is a heart condition characterised by gradual, progressive weakness of the heart valves and is most common in small breed, older dogs.

The prevalence is highest in cavalier King Charles spaniels, dachshunds, toy poodles, miniature schnauzers, and Chihuahuas. DCM is a condition in which the heart’s ability to pump blood is decreased because the heart’s main pumping chamber, the left ventricle, is enlarged and weakened, and  is most commonly seen in older, large breed dogs.

The prevalence is greatest in Doberman pinschers, Great Danes, Irish wolfhounds, boxers, and cocker spaniels. The symptoms of heart disease are highly variable. Some animals with heart disease show no symptoms at all while others can have severe coughing (especially at night), exercise intolerance, weight loss, loss of appetite, difficulty breathing or fainting. Consult your veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis of heart disease.

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