Canine heart failure

Vet using a stethoscope to listen to a dog's heart.

Compared to humans, dogs are less prone to get cardiac failure. However, a number of the same risk factors are present and might raise the possibility of an acute—and potentially fatal—cardiac episode. Obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, poisoning, and severe bacterial infections are some of these risk factors. Although canine heart disease comes in many different forms, all of them can lead to heart failure.

What Is Heart Failure?

Heart failure is the outcome of severe cardiac illness, which restricts blood supply to the heart and renders it incapable of beating. Due to the reduced blood flow, the organs of the dog cannot receive enough oxygen. Congestive heart failure is a different type of heart failure that develops when blood flow is restricted or obstructed, causing blood to pool in the organs and body of the dog.

Symptoms of Heart Failure in Dogs

If the heart disease is moderate enough to allow the heart and the rest of the body to adjust, dogs with heart disease may be asymptomatic (free of any indications of sickness). But if untreated heart disease worsens, heart failure symptoms will appear.

Some symptoms of heart failure are specific to the damaged side of the heart and might affect one or both sides of the heart. Even the smallest hint might point to imminent heart failure or congestive heart failure in a dog, despite the fact that many of these symptoms can also be signs of other illnesses.


  • Coughing
  • Generalized weakness or tiring easily
  • Lack of appetite
  • Breathing heavily
  • A bloated, fluid-filled abdomen
  • Swelling in the legs
  • Increased heart rate
  • Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats)
  • Fainting
  • Cyanosis (bluish coloration of the gums due to lack of oxygenated blood)

Blood backs up as a result of right-sided heart failure, accumulating in the limbs, liver, stomach, and chest cavities. A dog's chest or legs might seem swollen due to the blood accumulating.

When a person has left-sided heart failure, fluid builds up in the lungs and blood returning from the lungs to the heart backs up. The dog coughs, feels exhausted or weak, and has hard breathing as a result.

In some dogs, both sides of the heart fail, causing a combination of symptoms associated with unilateral failures.

Causes of Heart Failure

Heart failure is a culmination of damage that occurs throughout heart disease progression. There are four distinct causes of acute heart failure, as follows:

  • Systolic myocardial failure: This is the inability of the heart to contract fully or as powerfully as it should. It can be caused by genetics, injury, infection, drugs or poisons, electric shock, heatstroke, tumors, or unidentifiable factors.
  • Obstruction of cardiac inflow: This obstruction of blood flow can be the result of surrounding fluid pressure, tumors, ventricular stiffening due to diastolic dysfunction, or physical abnormalities.
  • Pressure overload: This problem occurs due to long-term constriction of vessels and increased blood pressure.
  • Volume overload: This is the marked increase in blood volume in one or both ventricles due to valve disease, physical abnormalities that cause left-to-right shunts, hyperthyroidism, or anemia.

Diagnosing Heart Failure in Dogs

The veterinarian may conduct a chest x-ray and an echocardiogram—an ultrasound study of the heart—along with blood and urine tests in order to rule out heartworms. A dog's cardiac rhythm can be measured using an electrocardiogram (EKG). In order to identify the type of cardiac disease your dog has, one or more of these tests will be required.

Treatment of Heart Failure

Depending on the precise origin, appearance, and severity of the specific case, heart failure may be treated with a range of medications if detected in time. Some drugs can expand blood arteries while others might assist the heart contract. Drugs called diuretics can assist a dog's excretion of built-up fluid, easing pain and strain on the heart. Your dog's quality of life will be improved, and the hazards connected with some of the medications that may be administered will be minimized, via the establishment of a treatment plan by your veterinarian that must be strictly followed.

Prognosis for Dogs with Heart Failure

The severity of a dog's cardiac problem and any related medical conditions will determine the dog's prognosis for heart failure. It's doubtful that a dog with severe heart disease, obesity, or diabetes can totally recover. However, if the dog's heart is in the beginning stages of failing and the owner is dedicated to improving the dog's health and fitness, then the likelihood is high that the dog will live a happy and reasonably active life for months or years.

How to Prevent Heart Failure

In certain circumstances, if the underlying condition is treated with drugs that enhance heart function and decrease fluid buildup, heart failure can be postponed for months or even years. Because medication changes could become necessary in the future, careful monitoring is crucial.

The best way to prevent canine heart failure is to reduce its risk factors: Make sure your dog doesn't become overweight, and work with your vet to treat ongoing health conditions such as diabetes.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.


"Heart Disease In Dogs. Lort Smith Animal Hospital.", "Heart Failure In Dogs. Merck Veterinary Manual." ;