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Healthy Dogs

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Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

Congenital Heart Disease in Dogs

Your beloved pet can have heart problems just like you. Know the symptoms so you can get your companion the help she needs.

Heart disease leads to congestive heart failure. That's when your dog's heart has trouble pumping blood to the rest of its body.

Heart disease can affect one side of the heart or sometimes both sides. It can progress slowly and may take years to spot.


Old age, injury, and infection can cause it. Diet and exercise play roles too. And some dogs are born with heart defects.


Take notice of these early symptoms of heart problems:

  • Coughing more than usual (during or after exercise or a few hours before bedtime)
  • Having a hard time breathing or exercising
  • Tiring easily
  • Pacing before bedtime and having a hard time settling down

More symptoms may develop, as the disease gets worse, including:

  • A swollen belly from fluid buildup in the lungs and other organs
  • Fainting because of blocked blood flow to the brain
  • Change in tongue or gum color to bluish gray because of poor oxygen flow
  • Weight loss as your dog loses her ability to store healthy fat

Getting a Diagnosis

Your vet will want to know any symptoms you've noticed. He or she will want to know what she eats, what medications and supplements she may be taking, and if she is current on heartworm protection.

The vet will listen to your dog's chest and may want to run some tests, including:

  • A blood and urine test to check for any other problems that could be affecting your dog's heart.
  • Chest X-rays. These use radiation in low doses to make images of your dog's internal organs.
  • An EKG. This test measures electrical signals from your dog's heart and tells how fast it's beating and if that rhythm is healthy.
  • An ultrasound. Ultrasound uses sound waves to look at the size, shape, and movement of the heart.
  • Heartworm antigen test. Your vet will take blood from your dog to test it for heartworms.

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