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Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs


Most commercial diets contain excessive amounts of salt. Your veterinarian may prescribe a low-salt prescription diet such as Hill’s h/d, Purina CV, or Royal Canin EC. In dogs with mild symptoms, salt restriction may be the only treatment required.

Exercise is beneficial, but only for dogs who are not symptomatic. If symptoms such as easy tiring, coughing, or rapid breathing appear with exercise, do not allow your dog to engage in activities that elicit these symptoms.

Various drugs are available that increase the force and contraction of the heart muscle or decrease the workload. They include the digitalis glycosides, calcium channel blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, beta blockers, and anti-arrhythmics. These are the same drugs used in people. ACE inhibitors such as enalapril maleate (Enacard) and benazepril (Fortekor) may prolong the life of dogs with valvular heart disease and cardiomyopathy, and are commonly used in dogs with these diseases. Fluid accumulation in the lungs and elsewhere is managed by diuretics such as furosemide (Lasix). Potassium supplements may be necessary when giving certain diuretics. A diuretic that spares the potassium the body needs is spironolactone (Aldactone).

Dogs with congestive heart failure may benefit from vitamin-B supplements and taurine or carnitine. Coenzyme Q is another supplement that may help dogs with cardiac problems.

When treating cardiac arrhythmias, it is important to search for and correct any underlying electrolyte or metabolic problems that might trigger an attack. A number of cardiac drugs, including digitalis, lidocaine, diltiazem, procainamide, atropine, and propanalol (Inderal), are used to control arrhythmias in dogs. Dogs whose primary problem is an arrhythmia may be able to have a pacemaker implanted to help control the heart rate.

With proper treatment, a dog with congestive heart failure can live a longer and more comfortable life. However, heart disease requires close monitoring. You will need to return to your veterinarian regularly for checkups.


WebMD Veterinary Reference from "Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook"

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