All about heart failure in dogs


He sick heart of a dog requires certain care so that it maintains an adequate quality of life, in addition to having its disease controlled, so as to avoid cardiac failures that put your life at risk. Below are offered five guidelines for caring for a dog with heart problems: adequate food, avoid obesity, early diagnosis of cardiac pathology, apply veterinary treatment to work and practice moderate exercise.

1. Caring for the dog with heart problems: feeding

The variety of dog food available in the market allows to cover with broadness its different nutritional needs, including those of dogs that suffer from heart disease. High-end trademarks elaborate specific feed for dogs with heart disease which have a low salt content and an extra taurine and carnitine, animal proteins that protect the heart, as well as antioxidants or omega 3 fatty acids and B vitamins.

A dog with heart problems should exercise moderately and avoid sedentary lifestyle and obesity.

Homemade recipes with veterinary supervision They can also be an option to feed a dog with heart problems. However, this alternative requires the owners effort and perseverance to adjust to the appropriate ingredients and quantities determined by the veterinarian. This type of diet can be applied in cases of dogs that are unappetizing in front of the food dish.

The diet of a dog with heart problems should be custom, because each case is different and needs nutritional guidelines that fit their needs. In this way, a dog with cardiac pathology who is overweight needs a low-calorie diet. In the opposite case, it would be found that he suffers from chronic weight loss (cachexia), which is also characterized by muscular atrophy, fatigue and weakness. In this case, the animal needs a diet high in calories.

2. Avoid the obesity of the dog with cardiac pathologies

Being overweight is a health problem that aggravates the dog's heart problems and that can even trigger them. To avoid extra kilos, food is a fundamental ally: the right portions and a good quality feed, which may be low in calories, are the basis for avoiding overweight that affects heart health.

The dogs that suffer from heart conditions can also lose their appetite, both for the medication and for the discomfort derived from their disease. This Inapetence can be fought with juicy foods such as cans, which are more attractive to the dog's palate, but always under the supervision of a veterinarian.

3. Diagnosis of dog heart failure

Recognizing the heart condition of the dog in time is the best way to treat you early, to avoid sequelae that further deteriorate the health of your heart. Symptoms like fatigue, decay, night cough, breathing difficulties or swelling of the abdomen They are signs to go to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

Around 85% of older dogs suffer from some cardiac pathology, and with adequate treatment they have a high life expectancy

Age is a common risk factor for them to develop heart conditions. In general, all older dogs end up having heart failure. "85% of greater they suffer it, "says Juan Antonio Aguado, veterinarian.

Certain dog breeds, such as large ones (mastiff), have a greater tendency to suffer certain heart problems. Large dogs age at a faster rate than small dogs, and with seven years they can have alterations in the functioning of their heart, which can be weak. However, the small dogs They may also have other heart conditions, such as endocardiosis or degeneration of the heart valves.

4. Treatment for a heart sick dog

Once the animal has a veterinary diagnosis regarding its heart condition, it is normal for the specialist to apply a treatment, such as vasodilators or diuretics. The administration of these medications should be followed closely, as well as the guidelines indicated by the veterinarian.

"The periodic reviews of the dog with heart problems are key, especially until it is possible to adjust the treatment that keeps the animal stable," says Aguado. "A dog that suffers from heart disease and has adequate treatment significantly increases both his hope and his quality of life," says María Victoria Acha, veterinarian.

5. Moderate exercise for can with cardiac pathologies

The fact that a dog has a sick heart does not imply that he needs a sedentary life. Quite the opposite. In these cases, moderate exercise is a trick to keep the canine heart in shape.

However, "the dog that suffers from the heart must perform an amount of physical activity according to its ability," explains Aguado. So if the dog is tired during the walk, it is advisable to return home to rest, and not insist on continuing physical activity.

Symptoms of heart failure in dogs

Congestive heart failure It is a pathology that dogs are at risk of suffering as they age, since the walls of his heart are weakening and he does not have the necessary strength to pump enough blood to the whole organism, causing a lack of oxygen. But nevertheless, This does not mean that it happens only to elderly dogs, in fact it can happen to any dog ​​at any time.

When should you suspect that your dog has heart failure? The clearest symptoms are:

  • Constant cough
  • Respiratory irregularity, in some cases breathing difficulties occur, while in others, on the contrary, they breathe too quickly
  • Do not tolerate as before the game and exercise
  • Tired before and is almost continuously exhausted
  • Fainting. This is a sign of lack of oxygen in the brain, if your dog passes out immediately go to the veterinarian
  • Gums and blue tongue
  • Swollen abdomen due to fluid accumulation

If you detect some of these symptoms in your dog (they may not all occur), it is important that you ask the veterinarian to diagnose the problem as soon as possible.

Why does heart failure occur in dogs?

As is the case with people, It is normal that at certain times, especially in advanced ages, certain functions of the dog's organism begin to fail. However, in the case of heart failure, it not only occurs due to old age, other times it is due to congenital problems or to different heart failures. Other causes of heart failure in dogs are:

  • Tumors
  • Heartworm
  • Endocarditis and other heart valve problems
  • Heart wall problems
  • Liquid retained around the heart
  • High blood pressure

Treatment and care of a dog with heart failure

The treatment of heart failure in dogs It depends on your cause. For example, if it is a consequence of any pathology, the appropriate treatment will be put in place to cure it and with it the insufficiency will improve or disappear, If it is a genetic problem, surgery is likely to be necessary. In many cases, when the cause is old age, this pathology has no solution and the treatment is based on reducing symptoms to improve their quality of life as much as possible.

It will also be necessary to carry out interventions according to the specific needs of each dog: drain fluid if there is one, administer oxygen ... In most cases, hospitalization is necessary to try to stabilize the situation. Once you leave the hospital, you will have to make changes to adapt your life to this new condition:

  • We will have to reduce physical exercise. It is not necessary to eliminate it completely, but to adapt it to its new capacities.
  • You will have to give him his medication as recommended by the veterinarian. It is very likely to be medication for life.
  • Take care of your diet. Developing obesity will greatly increase the damage to the heart.
  • You will have to go to periodic reviews for the veterinarian to evaluate its evolution.

A dog with heart failure You can have a considerable life expectancy and carry a day to day almost equal to that of any other dog if you take care of it properly and adapt to it. All pets need love, but much more if they are sick!

Care for heart failure in dogs

If your dog has heart failure, you have to pay attention to their care. To do so, consider the following aspects:

  • Adapt the exercise to your abilities: heart failure in dogs can worsen, and even endanger your life if you force him to exercise more than his condition allows.
    On the other hand, it facilitates your daily life: preventing you from going up or down stairs unnecessarily and placing your dishes in an accessible place will make your life much easier.
  • Limit the amount of salt your dog ingests, as it produces fluid retention and this can worsen its condition.
  • Take your dog's pulse frequently to monitor your heart rate.
  • Take your dog to the vet to perform frequent medical checkups. A heart disease needs constant monitoring, even if it is stable.
  • Stay tuned for heart failure symptoms:
    - Agitated breathing
    - Persistent cough
    - Collapse after exercise
    - Lack of energy
    - Getting tired even after doing very light activities
    - Weight loss and appetite
    - Fast heart rate

Use diuretics to treat heart failure in dogs

Diuretics they are drugs that help eliminate accumulated fluids outside the circulatory system: in the abdomen, lungs or chest. This alteration implies that the heart, suffering from heart failure, has to do even more work to fulfill its function.

Furosemide help your dog to urinate more frequently and therefore, to better eliminate salts from your body. For more severe cases, spironolactone may also help. Of course, you should ask the veterinarian for information and advice, although most likely, if your dog needs them, he will prescribe them directly.

Other methods of medical care and medication

Some alternatives or complementary treatments for heart failure in dogs are:

  • Drain the chest fluid, which greatly helps the dog feel better in the short term.
  • ACE inhibitor (angiotensin converting enzyme), which increases blood flow that leaves the heart so that it takes less effort to function.
  • The positive intrope medication too It helps the heart pump blood with less effort.

Note that You must follow the veterinarian's instructions and not medicate your dog on your own. Heart failure in dogs is a serious condition that needs careful and proper treatment.

What is heart failure?

Heart failure is the medical terminology used to name various disorders characterized by weakening of the heart. There is talk of inadequacy when an organ fails to fully exercise its functions due to some anomaly. In the case of the heart the insufficiency is in not offering the necessary amount of blood to the organism.

To try to preserve the organic balance, the body activates certain mechanisms to guarantee the oxygenation of organs and tissues, but the intensification of cardiac damage usually overwhelms these compensatory measures. Heart failure affects humans, dogs and cats very similarly.

Author: Soggydan Benenovitch

If we analyze the data at national or international level, the samples are evident. The American Heart Association has found that About six million people live with heart failure in the United States alone.

Causes of heart failure in dogs

The most common cause of heart failure in dogs is severe dilated cardiomyopathy, that is, a condition that weakens the walls of the heart. In females, pregnancy is taken as a possible cause of degeneration of the walls and heart valves.

But the pathology is also associated with the following factors:

  • Accumulation of fluid in the pericardial sac.
  • Heart valve deficiency.
  • Canine Dirofilariasis (‘heartworm pathology’).
  • Altered heart rate.
  • Arterial hypertension.
  • Infection of the heart valves (endocarditis).
  • Cardiac neoplasia

Development of heart failure in dogs

Heart failures can affect the right, left or both sides of the heart, and the point of origin determines the characteristics and evolution of the disease.

On the one hand, it should be noted that when the insufficiency is focused on the right side, the unpumped blood remains accumulated in the abdomen.

For other, the original anomalies on the left side of the vital organ cause excess fluid retention in the lung. In both cases, the accumulation is very dangerous due to the risk of causing congestion or bleeding.

Further, heart failure in dogs can cause gradual enlargement of the left ventricle. This phenomenon is commonly known as ‘enlarged heart’ and, in the most severe cases, The heart becomes so fragile that it no longer manages to pump blood into the body.

Diagnosis of heart failure in dogs

When recognizing any of the above symptoms, it is essential to go quickly to the veterinarian. The professional will proceed appropriately to perform the necessary tests.

The diagnosis of congestive heart failure usually includes the following tests, to find out the cause of the weakening:

  • Blood: to detect the ‘heartworms’.
  • Blood pressure measurement and stress test.
  • Torax X ray.
  • ECG or electrocardiogram.
  • Echocardiogram: to verify the anatomy and functioning of cardiac structures.