Canine Heart Failure Symptoms and Life Expectancy

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old dog

At 8-10 years of age, the odds of a dog suffering from congestive heart failure rise exponentially.

Therefore, it is essential that you know how this chronic pathology manifests so that you receive the appropriate treatment as soon as you detect the first symptoms. In this entry, you will find the keys about its diagnosis, its causes and possible therapeutic guidelines.

  • You may also like: Dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs

Index of contents

  • 1 Heart failure – A stealth disease
  • 2 How does heart failure originate?
  • 3 Diagnosis
  • 4 What does your treatment consist of?
  • 5 Genetically prone breeds to have heart disease

Heart failure – A stealth disease

Heart failure refers to the weakening of the walls or valves of the heart, impairing its ability to irrigate into the tissues.

This low cardiac output triggers a neurohormonal response that increases heart rate, sodium and water retention, and vasoconstriction hypertrophying this vital organ.

It is usually more common in middle and older dogs. Among females, pregnancy is considered a risk factor leading to this pathology.

Among its most obvious symptoms are:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue and apathy.
  • He will shy away from any attempt on your part to play with him
  • Cough
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Recurrent fainting
  • Blue or gray gums

In most canine patients, these signs are evident when the pathology is already advanced. Hence, the need to go to the vet at the slightest indication.

Depending on the intensity of these symptoms, there are 4 different functional groups that are indicative when prescribing one treatment or another:

  • Functional group I. Cardiac abnormality is shown only in clinical tests. The canid is vital, ready to exercise and without signs of pulmonary difficulty.
  • Functional group II. At this stage, the inability to make efforts, even to a slight degree, begins to be felt.
  • Functional group III. Fatigue is present after performing routine activities and sometimes also at rest.
  • Functional group IV. It is the most severe phase with a higher mortality rate and that requires a more complex treatment.

How does heart failure originate?

The triggers are related to a dilated cardiomyopathy, or what is the same, a damaged heart and unable to pump properly. In cases where the left ventricle is dilated, it is called an “enlarged heart” and it has blood retention in the lung.

When it affects the right side, on the other hand, the bulging of the abdomen by the accumulated blood is visible.

In this sense, the possible causes increase the probability of bleeding and are summarized in:

  • Functional deficiency of the heart valves by “heart worm”(Heartworm disease).
  • Arrhythmia. Increased blood pressure.
  • Heart valve infection (endocarditis).
  • Neoplasm or cardiac tumor.

dog in veterinary clinic

Diagnosis

Its detection comprises a set of tests and analytics that, should your pet be affected, you must repeat every six months to monitor its evolution.

In functional groups III and IV it will be necessary to keep the animal hospitalized and with oxygen therapy. Controlled suctions will be performed to alleviate retention in the lung or abdomen.

The diagnosis consists of:

  • Blood tests to determine the existence of the “heartworm”.
  • Stress test to examine cardiac behavior and measure blood pressure.
  • X-ray of the chest.
  • Electrocardiogram and echocardiogram.

What does your treatment consist of?

As we have already mentioned, the more advanced the stage the dog is in will require a more holistic performance. The ultimate goal of therapy is always to alleviate symptoms and increase their life expectancy.

To cope with heart failure in dogs, it is urgent to reduce the intake of salt and reduce physical activity so as not to overload the heart.

The feed must be specialized to provide it with the micronutrients, minerals and vitamins it requires. Supplements enriched with Omega 3 fatty acids are effective in preventing unhealthy weight loss (cardiac cachexia).

If your pet is obese and suffers from congestive insufficiency, you must lower its weight, since being overweight increases the hemodynamic demand, which in this context is highly harmful.

As part of the usual treatment are used:

  • Diuretics to counteract edema and spillage.
  • Digitalis glycosides against arrhythmia.
  • Inhibitors of the angiotensime converting enzyme II (ACE inhibitors) to alleviate vasoconstriction and the consequent hypertrophy.
  • Beta blockers, such as carvedil, to lower heart rate and oxygen demand.

As you can see, it is a disabling pathology that requires discipline in complying with the treatment and, above all, all your love.

Genetically prone breeds to have heart disease

Although heart disease can occur in any type of breed, some are more likely to suffer from genetic inheritance, such as:

  • The Doberman
  • The Dalmatian
  • The Boxer
  • Cocker spaniel
  • Saint Bernard
  • Great dane
  • Giant schnauzer

So if you appreciate any of the symptoms mentioned above, do not hesitate to go to your vet so that he can carry out the necessary tests to confirm or deny the existence of a heart problem.