The inability to boost blood flow at an adequate rate to meet cellular metabolic needs causes congestive heart failure in dogs, a condition that can be lethal to our pet and from which it is necessary to know what their clinical signs are in order to identify them in time. .
This condition is not in itself a disease, but a clinical syndrome produced by a certain cardiac pathology that alters the heart and prevents adequate tissue irrigation. Thus, blood accumulates in different areas of the animal’s body, such as in the extremities or intestinal tract.
In the following lines, we tell you everything you need to know about this heart failure, in order to identify the causes that produce it and make an accurate diagnosis that allows a favorable evolution of the animal.
How does congestive heart failure occur?
Different pathologies can cause congestive heart failure in dogs. One of the most common is dilated cardiomyopathy, although it can also be caused by certain heart wall defects, heart rhythm abnormalities, heart valve deficiencies or an increase in blood pressure, among others.
At the moment that the heart presents failures, the organism begins to compensate to try that the tissues receive the necessary oxygen and blood. When this condition progresses, the body can no longer execute the compensatory mechanisms so that the symptoms begin to become more evident in the dog.
Thus, at the time when tissue irrigation decreases, vascular receptors trigger a reaction of neurohormones, chemical substances that are produced by neuroendocrine cells, leading to a considerable increase in heart rate and fluid retention.
This mechanism overloads the myocardium and has adverse effects that lead to cardiac dilation seen in congestive heart failure.
Among the other causes of congestive heart failure, we can mention the following:
- Heart valve deficiencies.
- Defects in the walls of the heart.
- Accumulation of fluid in the sac around the heart.
- Heart rhythm disturbances.
- Heartworm disease.
- Increased blood pressure.
Signs and symptoms of congestive heart failure
Usually, when this condition is in its early stages of development, it has no symptoms, however, as the syndrome progresses, it is possible to observe some of these symptoms in the dog:
- Persistent cough.
- Difficulty or rapid breathing.
- Exercise intolerance.
- Weakness or tiredness.
- Gray or blue gums and tongue.
- Abdominal distention due to fluid accumulation.
- Sudden death.
Once the clinical signs have been observed and identified, it is necessary to take the animal to an emergency veterinary consultation that will be used to perform the initial tests, which usually include blood tests, blood pressure measurement, chest x-ray, echocardiogram, electrocardiogram and urine tests, among others.
Other more specialized studies may include an enzyme immunosorbent test and the analysis of BNP natriuretic peptide hormone values, which has proven to be very effective for the diagnosis of congestive heart failure.
Treatment and life expectancy
Reducing the amounts of salt in the dog’s diet and limiting his physical activity to avoid cardiac overload are two of the immediate steps that must be taken to deal with this condition.
Regarding medical treatment, it is necessary to go to the veterinarian in order to establish the appropriate drugs, whose dose will be subject to the status and evolution of heart failure, as well as to the specific heart problem and cause.
The veterinary professional may use diuretics to eliminate fluid retention, edema and spills. Once the progress is observed, the doses can be gradually reduced. Also, the specialist may consider the use of digitalis glycosides, Angiotensin II Converting Enzyme inhibitors and beta blockers.
In most cases, with the appropriate treatment and necessary care, it is possible to achieve satisfactory results in the evolution of the animal, considerably improving its quality of life.
Care may include other therapies and changes in pet habits. This not only helps prevent congestive heart failure in the animal but also improves its condition if it is diagnosed with CHF.
In addition, adequate control of blood pressure should be maintained, so medical observation is crucial for the favorable evolution of the dog.
Feeding the dog with congestive heart failure
Special attention deserves the nutritional issue of the animal. The inadequate feeding produces multiple adverse consequences in the dog, so the main thing is that it does not stop eating food, being preferable to maintain the current feeding in case the animal manifests rejection when eating before any change in the diet.
If the dog has a good appetite and a good predisposition to changes in its diet, it must be balanced by gradually incorporating fatty acids – omega 3, as they are very useful to prevent the development of cardiac cachexia. As mentioned, dietary changes should consider the restriction of salt intake, a balanced content of vitamins and minerals and the inclusion of some fortified feed.
It is proven that obesity considerably increases the metabolic and cardiac hemodynamic demand, in addition to interfering and making breathing difficult and predisposing to the development of arrhythmias; Therefore, it is essential to control the weight of the pet through balanced hypocaloric diets, especially in those animals with obesity problems.
Veterinary consultations for dogs that have been affected by a heart problem become more frequent every year. It is always necessary to be aware of the proper functioning of the heart of our pets in order to detect the precise moment in which they will need medical attention.
Congestive heart failure is a clinical syndrome that can be detected in time by observing its clinical signs, in order to perform the necessary treatment that increases the prognosis of survival and improves the quality of life of the dog.