Many dogs that have canine congestive heart failure symptoms do not show any visible clinical symptoms, as your dog's body can compensate for a weak heart for months or even years. At the point where the body can no longer adjust (faster heart beat etc.), your dog may collapse, drool more than usual or have a bluish tongue.
As with all diseases, any changes in your dog's behavior warrants a trip to the Veterinarian. If one day your dog can't wait to go outside, and the next day or two your pet acts like a different dog, then you should look for signs of something else being wrong. Things to look for include a loss of appetite or your dog is acting weaker and less active than usual.
Heart Murmur in Dogs
One way to diagnose heart disease is for your Veterinarian to hear a heart murmur in your dog when listening with a stethoscope. This is a common way to diagnose Mitral Valve disease, the most common form of heart disease in small dogs.
Heart murmurs are graded on a scale from 1 to 6, with the severity of heart disease associated with higher numbers. It is normal for a puppy at birth to have a heart murmur which in most cases will heal itself. If the murmur continues for 12 - 15 weeks then further tests for canine congestive heart failure symptoms need to be done. It is also normal to hear a murmur in a dog which is very athletic. Here the sound heard is the rush of blood from an active heart. In both cases where the heart murmur in dog is considered normal, additional tests are done to rule out heart disease.
Note that dogs with an enlarged heart (DCM) are difficult to diagnose since this form of heart disease does not cause a murmur.
Dog Lung Sounds
Accumulating fluid in the body is another symptom of canine congestive heart failure. If fluid is in the lungs your dog's rate of breathing will change.
To check, count the number of breaths in 15 seconds and multiply the number by 4. This is the breathing rate per minute. In a healthy dog this number would be under 30. If the number increases by 6 over 2 to 3 days, this is an indication of fluid in the lungs and your dog should be seen by your vet.
Treatment of Canine Congestive Heart Failure
Treatment of heart problems in dogs is similar to human heart patient therapy. This includes:
- Exercise: Limited exercise is thought to be of benefit. The amount of exercise depends on the extent of your dog's heart problem.
- Dietary Restriction: A reduced salt diet (but not eliminated) is often recommended since it is a major contributor to heart congestion in dogs.
- Diuretics: These medications reduce salt absorption by the body. The medication Forosemide is the most commonly prescribed medication.
- Ace-1 Inhibitors: This class of drugs is through to slow down the progression of congestive heart failure.
- Beta Blockers: These medications affect the sympathetic nervous system and the way it controls the heart. They improve exercise tolerance and survival times.
Natural Remedies for Canine Congestive Heart Failure Symptoms
There is a long history of using herbal supplements to aid in the care of dog heart conditions. They can be used independently or as part of a heart care program prescribed by your veterinarian. Herbs to consider which will help to reduce the severity of canine congestive heart failure symptoms include:
- Crateagus oxycantha (Hawthorn): has many cardio-protective properties. It dilates the blood vessels, improving the heart's energy supply and pumping ability. It blocks the action of a blood constricting enzyme called ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme). The anti-oxidant properties of hawthorn also help to protect against damage caused by plaque build-up in the coronary arteries.
- Arnica montana (D3): effective for the treatment of senile heart, angina, or coronary artery disease as well as for internal healing after heart surgery.
- Kalium Phosphate (C6) (Kali. phos.): a biochemic tissue salt for dogs that suffer from heart complaints, regular use of Kali. phos. can help to alleviate heart palpitations, irregular heart beat, high blood pressure and dizziness and promote healthy blood flow to the brain. Kalium Phosphate is also helps with the relief of anxiety and emotional tension associated with heart conditions.
- Calcium fluoride (C6) (Calc. flour.): a biochemic tissue salt that improves the strength, flexibility and elasticity of the veins and arteries of the circulatory system.
A good commercial source to explore is PetAlive Heart & Circulation Natural Treatment and Prevention supplements.
There are other supplements that may have a positive effect on canine heart health. For example, taurine and carnitine are currently being researched, particularly since taurine has been very helpful in cat heart health. A recent study has shown that Cocker Spaniels with a heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy have responded to taurine plus carnitine supplementation.
Fish oils may also improve a dogs appetite and may help with signs of poor health.
One easy option is to use one of the many types dog treats that include supplements such as Taurine and Omega 3.
References for Canine Congestive Heart Failure Symptoms
"Home Care of the Heart Failure Patient"
Washington State University
"Canine Heart Disease"
Dukes, Joanne, MRCVS Department of Veterinary Medicine University
Glasgow Veterinary School, Scotland, UK
Hearty Dog, http://www.heartydog.co.uk/index.html
Heart Disease in Dogs and Cats
Hines, Ron DVM, PHD
Heart Conditions: Dilated Cardiomyophaty (DCM) "Treatment for Rapid Heart Beat"
Yankee Golden Retriever Rescue
"His Heart is In Your Hands"
Canine Cardiology, New Hope Animal Hospital
"Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy and Heart Failure"
Pawprints & Purrs, Inc.
"Hole in Dog's Heart Repaired", Advances in the Management of Canine Heart Failure
Dr. Clarke E. Atkins
Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences