sick dog on bed

We hope you clicked on this post only because of curiosity. Hearing that your dog has Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) is heartbreaking news.

CHF is when the heart can’t pump enough blood throughout the body. This causes an increase in pressure and fluid that eventually leaks into other areas of the body. Sadly, there is no cure.

Luckily, dogs with advanced heart failure can have relatively long survival times. The average lifespan after diagnosis is 281 days or between 6–14 months. If your dog was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, keep reading to learn more about what to expect until the final stages of CHF.

What Does Treatment Look Like?

Treatment for CHF looks different for every dog. Your vet will have to create a plan based on your pet’s history and what’s causing the heart problem. Still, you can expect your vet to suggest the following:

  • Medications to help the heart function
  • Medications to help diminish fluid build-up
  • Medications to help reduce blood pressure
  • Surgery to implant a pacemaker
  • A prescription diet (low sodium)
  • Limit exercise

Some vets recommend supplements like vitamin B, taurine, and carnitine to help the body function and minimize symptoms.

Caring for Your Dog: What to Expect

Caring for your dog at home can help prolong your dog’s life through proper care and planning. Let’s look at what you can expect at the vet and at home.

sick siberian husky dog in vet
Image courtesy of Shutterstock

At the Vet

Your dog will have regular vet appointments to monitor the heart closely. Vet appointments may involve chest taps, EKGs, and blood work.

One missed vet appointment can add more stress to your dog’s heart, thus shortening its life. So, make sure you can get your dog to the vet on these days. That way, any adjustments can be made quickly and efficiently.

At Home

You won’t see your dog as active at home depending on the CHF stage. You may also notice your dog coughing and sleeping in a different position than usual because of the fluid build-up.

Most animals with CHF have difficulty breathing, so you’ll notice your dog panting much more. Your dog may find it challenging to get a deep breath. Breaths will look deep but unfulfilling.

Sodium tends to cause water gain in the body, so you’ll be feeding a low-sodium prescription diet rather than regular kibble. You’ll also have medications to offer throughout the day.

It’s a good idea to monitor your dog closely for any behavior changes and inform your vet as needed. Some other areas to watch closely include:

  • Food and water intake
  • Respiratory rate
  • Heart rate (pulse)
  • Gum color (CRT)
  • Bathroom breaks

These are basic vitals you can record in 15 minutes or less. Record all of these and give them to your vet at each appointment.

Congestive Heart Failure Stages

Stage 1: The heart is starting to fail but symptoms aren’t present.

Stage 2: Shortness of breath, panting, and fatigue are noticeable, especially after exercise.

Stage 3: Shortness of breath and fatigue are more noticeable, even after basic movements like walks. Your dog may start coughing and wheezing as fluid builds up in the chest.

Stage 4: In stage four, breathing becomes a challenge, even while resting. Other areas of the body, like the limbs, fill with fluid and become swollen, making it difficult to walk. Some dogs may start vomiting.

sick dog on bed
Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Should You Put Down Your Dog?

Reaching stage four is difficult. This is the hardest part of any illness. It’s the part that drains your energy from all the emotional twists and turns, and it’s the hardest part for your pet medically.

As your dog approaches stage four, this is where you would consider end-of-life care (if you haven’t already). Choosing to euthanize your dog is one of the hardest decisions you’ll ever have to make, but it’s out of mercy and is better than your pet experiencing stage four CHF.

You and your vet should discuss when to euthanize your dog. Your vet can recommend making the appointment or waiting based on your dog’s vet exams and how your dog feels at home.

That said, you still have a choice. You don’t have to euthanize your pet if you don’t want to. It’s highly encouraged, but at the end of the day, you must make the right decision for your pet.

Final Thoughts

We’re very sorry if you read this post because your dog was diagnosed with CHF. It’s not easy watching your pet struggle and knowing what lies ahead. It can feel rather lonely even.

The best thing you can do for your dog is to go to all the vet appointments, follow your vet’s instructions, and do your best at home to make your dog comfortable. Your efforts at home make a difference for your pet.

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay