5 Common Signs of Heart Failure in Dogs

June 23rd, 2023 at 10:37 am EDT

Heart disease seems to be increasingly diagnosed in our dogs, but is there anything that you can do to help prevent it?

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5 Common Signs of Heart Failure in Dogs

Source: Morris Animal Foundation

Heart disease is a common problem in dogs and, like people, can be caused by a variety of underlying diseases including heart valve degeneration, irregular heart rate and rhythm (arrhythmia), and heart muscle disease. In spite of the many types of heart diseases affecting dogs, most share common signs that can alert owners to a problem.

Five common signs of heart disease in dogs include:

1.Cough – Dogs with heart disease have coughs that don’t resolve within a few days. Dogs with heart disease cough for many reasons. Fluid can begin to accumulate in the lungs because the heart isn’t pumping efficiently. This leads to a “back-up” of blood in the lungs, which can result in fluid leaking out of blood vessels and accumulating in lung tissue, resulting in cough. Some heart diseases lead to heart enlargement. The enlarged heart can press on airways and stimulate coughing. Any persistent cough that lasts more than a few days should be checked by a veterinarian.

2. Fainting or collapse – When heart function decreases, vital organs such as the brain can become deprived of nutrients, especially oxygen. Blood flow to the brain can be compromised in dogs with heart disease, leading to fainting (syncope) or collapse. Syncope and collapse in dogs with heart disease is usually triggered by exercise, although sometimes coughing can trigger an episode.

3.Difficulty breathing – Dogs with heart disease often will have difficulty breathing (dyspnea). A dog may breathe more rapidly, or with more force. Some dogs will sit or stand with their legs wide apart and with their neck stretched out. Dogs with severe heart disease have more trouble breathing when lying down, and will often sit or stand for long periods of time.

4.Fatigue, inability to exercise – Dogs with heart disease will tire out more quickly on walks and during exercise. They may sleep or rest more than usual.

5.Behavior change – Many behavior changes can be seen in dogs with heart disease, including poor appetite, isolation, and a reluctance to play or engage in previously pleasurable activities.

Signs of heart disease can mimic those seen with diseases such as arthritis, seizures and chronic lung disease. Your veterinarian can narrow down the diagnostic possibilities with a good history and diagnostic tests. Tests helpful in heart disease diagnosis include:

  • Chest X-ray – X-rays remain a good way to assess heart size, and remain one of the best ways to assess fluid build-up in and around the lungs.

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG) – An ECG is the best way to detect an arrhythmia. Sometimes a veterinarian will have a dog wear a Holter monitor to look for irregular heartbeats over several days while a dog is at home

  • Echocardiogram – An echocardiogram is an ultrasound of the heart. This non-invasive test has revolutionized the diagnosis of heart diseases in both people and dogs. An echocardiogram performed by a skilled veterinarian can provide important information not only about disease, but also provide measurements to assess therapy.

Although heart disease in dogs can be serious, many treatment options are available to help our dogs with heart disease not just control signs, but live a higher quality life. Diet therapy, modification of activity, and therapeutics are all strategies used to treat heart disease in dogs. Your veterinarian can help select which therapies are best for your four-legged friend.

Some alternative options to consider

DANDELION. In heart disease, fluid will accumulate in the lungs and abdomen. Dandelion is a very safe diuretic herb. Dose is 1ml of the tincture per 20lbs daily or as needed. The other important benefit of dandelion is that it is rich in potassium, which gets lost in the urine with diuretics. By comparison the conventional diuretic furosemide (lasix), causes potassium loss, and pets then may need to be supplemented with potassium.

HAWTHORN. Has been shown to increase the ability of the heart to contract, as well as causing the outside blood vessels to dilate, making heart contraction easier. The dose is 1/2 ml per 20lbs twice daily.

COENZYME Q. This supplement has been effective in people as an antioxidant and in decreasing damage to the heart muscle. The dose is 5 mg per ten pounds of body weight.

THOSE FATTY ACIDS. The omega-3 fatty acids are effective in strengthening a failing heart. They make it easier for the heart to beat and decrease the severity of arrhythmias. They lower blood pressure and decrease the risk of blood clots. The best canine source is found in KRILL OIL at 500mg per 25lbs daily

Heal Your Pet At Home!

Best Wishes,

Dr. Andrew Jones

P.S. The most common type of heart disease is called, Mitral Valve Disease, in which one of the heart valve does not close properly. It can be caused by infection/inflammation affecting the heart valve.

Some of the specific ways Krill Oil can help your dog:

  • Highly absorptive and bioavailable

  • Safe: Krill has been shown to be far safer than Fish Oil supplements, as heavy metals (i.e. mercury) concentrate in fish

  • Krill Oil naturally contains the unique Antioxidant, ASTAXANTHIN, which can support your pet's health in a multitude of ways

  • Heart Health: Omega 3 supplements may help improve many heart disease risk factors

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Dr. Jones' Omega 3 for Dogs and Cats

DISCLAIMER: This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. Dr Andrew Jones resigned from the College of Veterinarians of B.C. effective December 1 2010, meaning he cannot answer specific questions about your pet's medical issues or make specific medical recommendations for your pet.

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