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Congestive Heart Failure in dogs

Understanding more about the risk of congestive heart failures in dogs

Congestive heart failure which is also known as CHF is common across different breeds of dogs, some breeds are more prone to congestive heart failures than others. This article will explain more about Congestive Heart failure, how to manage it once it happens and diagnose these conditions in dogs.

What is Congestive Heart failure in dogs?

According to various distinguished veterinarians across the globe, Congestive Heart Failure or CHF is a fatal and lethal infection in dogs of different breeds. It is explained as the clear inability of the dog’s heart to pump blood with adequacy and sufficiently throughout its body. This is a serious condition for your pet, it further induces a massive attack where it cannot breathe and is inhibiting adequate supply of oxygen to the body (Brevitz, 2009). 

Congestive Heart Failure can also be noted with its characteristics of accumulation of blood in the lower parts of the dog (i.e. the chest and the abdomen) which hinders oxygen supply to the dog. This condition touches nearly all types of dogs that exist. 

With the understanding of CHF, we can break it down to various types or rather categories of this disease or condition.

Types of Congestive heart Failures

Types of Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

With all the knowledge acquired across global dog health dockets, there are various categories of Congestive Heart Failure denoted with their impact to the heart and body of the dog.

Left-Sided Congestive Heart failure

The first one is the Left-Sided Congestive Heart failure, also medically known as LS-CHF, is one of the most well-known categories of CHF. The condition attacks the heart particularly the left ventricle causing leakages and outflows of blood occur in the left chamber of the heart. 

Normally, the blood is supposed to flow from the left ventricle (left chamber of the heart), then it passes the left atrium of the dog’s heart and through the mitral valve, the blood flows to the rest of the body. 

LS-CHF gravely affects the dog causing difficulty in breathing due to a swelling that is caused by blood leakage in the left chamber of the heart. The infection extends to the lungs and symptoms such as coughing or minimal breathing may be witnessed with the infected dog. It will likely cause swelling in the lungs which is known as pulmonary edema. 

The situation can be handled and through proper management systems and procedures, the dog can get back into its stable condition (Kırali, 2017) and with professional vet advises, there are various medicines which can treat pulmonary edema through the use of recommended anti-inflammatories to reduce lung swelling.  

Right-Sided Congestive Heart Failure

The second category, which is a very common heart issue in dogs which is called the Right-Sided Congestive Heart Failure, also known as RS-CHF. It is a common heart disorder that affects nearly all types of breed in the dog family. 

Similar to the LS-CHF, this disorder affects the heart through fatal blood leakages around the right chamber of the heart, particularly the right ventricle. It is likely to happen when the dog’s heart contracts after it runs or involves itself in an aerobic activity. 

RS-CHF differs from LS-CHF by the difference in attack degree to your dog. The shortening of oxygenated blood around the body makes the dog weak after the infection of these heart disorders. Further, The RS-CHF is supposed to pump blood to the lungs but it pumps it to the tricuspid valve of the heart (Hosenpud, 2007). This causes a massive blood leak in the heart. Some characteristics have been used to identify a dog suffering from this attack such as the pet’s limb swelling. This condition is biologically called peripheral edema which is often deadly to your pet.

Signs and symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

Signs and symptoms of Congestive heart failure in dogs

Dogs exhibit different levels of playfulness, others might not be playful but possess a fun full attribute. You can easily tell your pet’s normality or abnormality if you are attached to your pet. Some of these abnormal signs will be precisely explained and these signs will be linked to Congestive Heart Failure.

Alarming dog cough

Detecting a problematic cough is the most important step to mitigating the risks of CHF. It is the first impression in knowing where your dog has an infection in their breathing system. 

According to various dog vets, all these signs which are triggered by cough are possibly Congestive Heart failure called pulmonary edema (Englar, 2019). The segment above has this information regarding pulmonary edema. What makes the cough alarming is the unique characteristics that link it with a possible CHF. The characteristics include:

  • A long persistent cough which is quite abnormal
  • Sound produced by your dog when coughing
  • As a result of the other two traits’ impact, the dog’s inability to eat or loss of appetite. 
  • Decrease in playfulness can be witnessed as well and all these signs are common not nearly all dog’s breeds.

Difficulty in breathing

It is highly likely that breathing problems primarily exist because of the lack of oxygenated blood to flow to the lungs because of the leakage. It can also be matched with shortness of breath, this sign should always alarm as it is very possibly CHF. If your dog experiences difficulty in breathing, take it to the vet for a medical screen. 


Due to the lung infection, the dog may lack energy to move around because of the shortness of breath.


After having the dog lose breath due to breathing problems, they are likely to faint right after. Be on the lookout once this happens as it can be very dangerous.


CHF has a massive effect on the flow of blood around the body of the dog. If you ever notice a bluish gray pigmentation on the tongue, get alarmed and immediately take the pet to a vet.

There are other visible signs and symptoms related to CHF. In a more descriptive way, the heart rate of the dog should remain normal. As a good devoted parent to your pet, know when there is an increase in heart rate. As a result of insufficient oxygen around the body of the dog due to possible CHF, the dog may have characteristics of bluish gum as well. It can be seconded by massive difficulty in settling down for sleep (Schober, 2010). 

Wandering or what is commonly known as pacing in dogs should be a sign to show fatal illness. The dog may look tired or fatigued because of the internal fluid produced as a result of insufficient blood and oxygen supply in the body. 

What causes Congestive Heart Failure in dogs?

Causes of Congestive heart failure in dogs

The first cause of congestive heart failure can be linked to lack of proper dieting to your dog. Diet is very important and if your dog lacks vital minerals in the body such as vitamin E, the heart muscles are prone to illness thus CHF. Another vital vitamin includes selenium which safeguards various heart muscles and lack of it makes the dog prone to CHF. You can know more about a proper diet and food choice for your dog in one of our other post: How Much Should I Feed My Dog?

The dog can be exposed to bacteria which causes an infection into the animal. If the infections are established on the body, it spreads to the heart affecting various parts such as the  valves and the lining of the heart that attacks and leaves an inflammation thus weakening the dog and making it prone to CHF. 

The dog’s hormones are another major reason why a dog can be prone to CHF. The thyroid hormone affects various types of breed and exposes the dogs to the risk of CHF. Further, different types of breeds are exposed to the hypothyroid hormone which affects the dog heart rate to a slower degree. 

Additionally, Congestive Heart Failure can be caused by heartworms and parvovirus. Depending on the breed type of your dog, the causes attack the heart and they produce weakening enzymes that expose the dog’s life to possible CHF.

Medication for Congestive Heart failure in dogs

Medicine for Congestive heart failure

As a pet owner, you might not like to hear this, heart conditions in dogs can often be incurable. According to veterinarians in the field of dog health, various lifestyles can be instilled to make the dog survive longer with the disease (Yoshida, 2020). With proper management, the pet will survive.

There are also regular types of medications that boost the immune of the pet helping the dog to change progressively. Congestive Heart failure may lack a cure but with early detection, the condition is very manageable and controllable.

After your vet has fully diagnosed and examined your pet, there are possible prescriptions that can be administered to your dog and with a long use of these suppositories, your dog can get back to its roots and survive further. Life-long medications are the best in a dog that is experiencing the CHF conditions. Below is a list of medication potential in restoring good health to your dog. 

The medication of Pimobendan

A dog that is ailing from CHF can have difficulty in breathing as a result of the heart infection as discussed above. Pimobendan is a medication that facilitates the increase of survival rate of a dog by rapidly increasing the strength of heart muscle contractions aiding in breathing processes. 

Use of a combined drug therapy

With the doctrines of a professional vet for your dog under CHF condition, a prescription of multiple drugs can be made to increase the survival rate of the dog. In the control of unbalanced heartbeats in an ailing dog, the dog will use a combination of drugs such as torsemide, valsartan, sildenafil and other relevant drugs to stabilize the condition. Note that unbalanced heartbeats in CHF is a condition called arrhythmias.

The use of ACE inhibitors

Also known as Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme. It is a form of medication that is the antidote of many heart related infections. They reduce the spread of Congestive Heart failure thus making the dog to survive longer. Some of these medications include furosemide, benazepril, spironolactone, lisinopril, enalapril and many more professionally established by an expert vet.


The vet examines Congestive Heart failure as a disorder that can affect nearly all dogs’ breeds. The vital remedy and antidote to this disease is the right dieting for your dog. Adopt a healthy lifestyle for your dog such as exercising, workouts and various physical involvement with your dog. Show love to your pet by visiting the vet on a regular. Avoid exposing your dog to pathogenic areas. A regular dental hygiene should be promoted in shaping a healthy life of your pet. 

If your dog is diagnosed to have some sort of heart issue, use of life-long medicine is a good practice in sustaining the wellness of your dog. In case of chronic symptoms of CHF, always visit a professional vet who will provide guidance and support for the welling of your canine friend.


Brevitz, B. (2009). The complete healthy dog handbook: The definitive guide to keeping your pet happy, healthy & active through every stage of life. Workman Publishing.

Kırali, K. (2017). Cardiomyopathies: Types and treatments. BoD – Books on Demand.

Englar, R. E. (2019). Common clinical presentations in dogs and cats. John Wiley & Sons.

Hosenpud, J. D., & Greenberg, B. H. (2007). Congestive heart failure. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Schober, K., Hart, T., Stern, J., Li, X., Samii, V., Zekas, L., Scansen, B., & Bonagura, J. (2010). Detection of congestive heart failure in dogs by Doppler echocardiography. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 24(6), 1358-1368.

Yoshida, T., Matsuura, K., Goya, S., Ma, D., Shimada, K., Kitpipatkun, P., Takeuchi, A., Uemura, A., & Tanaka, R. (2020). Balloon valvuloplasty in two dogs with aortic valve stenosis showing congestive heart failure. Veterinární Medicína, 65(No. 2), 89-94.

Chewable tablets for congestive heart failure in dogs. (2017). Veterinary Record, 181(10), 274.1-274.

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