Congestive Heart Failure in Our Pets

By December 12, 2014Pet Talk

Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive heart failure is a common disease affecting both dogs and cats. This is a condition where fluid collects within or around the lungs, or in the abdomen. This condition can be congenital, acquired and/or age related.

To understand the implications of congestive heart failure in dogs and cats, it is important to know the heart and lungs are dependent on each other.   With this information, you will be better able to recognize the signs of canine/feline congestive heart failure, understand why these signs occur.

The canine and feline heart heart and lungs are very similar to the human counter part. The hearts consist of four chambers, separated by one way valves.  Disease of one or more of the one way valves separating the chambers, or the heart muscle, leads to disruption in blood flow and back up of blood within the heart or in the lungs.

In the vast majority of cases, the body makes physiological compensations for these disruptions of blood flow through the heart and lungs. Depending on the severity of these compensations, the body can maintain normal function for a time, sometimes for many years.  However, the compensations the body needs to make to maintain blood flow, takes a toll on the body (e.g.: heart enlargement).

Congestive heart failure in dogs and cats has a range of clinical signs that can include: exercise intolerance, non-productive cough, faint periodically and labored breathing.

How to diagnosis congestive heart failure? The dog or cat suspected of having congestive hear failure often has had a life long history of a heart murmur, but this is not always the case.  They may have “crackley” lung sounds. The heart sounds may be muffled due to fluid around the heart, or a belly distended with free fluid.

Chest x-rays typically show enlarged heart and fluid in or around the lungs.  All diagnostic information allows the veterinarian to fine tune a treatment.

Treatment of congestive heart failure depends on the severity and underlying cause.  Oral medications can be recommended and used to help alleviate signs and symptoms of congestive heart failure.  Prognosis for congestive heart failure depends on the severity of the disease at the time of diagnosis. Best results occur with careful patient monitoring and frequent bloodwork.


Portions of this article taken from Roger L. Welton, DVM.

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