Fluid Overload: Congestive Heart Failure in Pets
While cardiovascular disease in people often comes in the form of heart attacks and strokes, pets tend to suffer from another version. Most heart conditions that we see in pets result in congestive heart failure, the accumulation of fluid in the lungs and abdomen. Congestive heart failure in pets is a serious problem. Pet owners who can recognize that their pet is in trouble sooner stand a better chance in helping their four-legged friends win against heart trouble.
The Causes of Congestive Heart Failure in Pets
Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a term that refers to the heart’s decreased ability to adequately pump blood. Anything that interferes with the heart’s ability to do its job can result in congestive heart failure in pets.
There are several more common causes of CHF. These include:
- Dysfunction of the heart valves (especially the mitral valve)
- Diseases of the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy)
- Infection with heartworms
Congestive heart failure may be right or left sided depending on where the problem lies. Issues with the left side of the heart results in the accumulation of fluid in the lungs, while right sided heart failure results in fluid in the abdomen.
Knowing the Signs
Congestive heart failure happens when the heart is unable to pump effectively, resulting a backup of blood in the systemic circulation. Fluid from the backed up blood vessels leaks out, resulting in the “congestion”.
In left sided heart failure, the most common type of CHF, because the fluid builds up in the lungs, symptoms are primarily respiratory. They may include:
- Exercise intolerance
- Decreased appetite
- Coughing (especially while at rest or during sleep)
- Difficulty breathing
- Pale or bluish gums
- Fainting episodes
- Weight loss
With right sided heart failure, fluid builds up in the abdomen (known as ascites).
Fighting the Good Fight
If your pet is suffering from congestive heart failure, most of the time there is not a cure. However, some pets may be managed on medications successfully. Each pet’s individual treatment depends on diagnosing the underlying cause accurately. Diagnostic tests such as an echocardiogram (heart ultrasound) are often necessary so that we can provide the best treatment regimen possible.
When treating a pet with congestive heart failure, owner participation is also key. It is very important that the animal’s caretakers pay close attention to signs that their pet may not be doing well. It is not uncommon for pets with CHF to need their medications adjusted periodically. Changes in appetite, activity level, and resting respiratory rate can all be important indicators as to the overall health of an individual pet.
Heart problems are never good, but with congestive heart failure in pets is often manageable with appropriate treatments. If you suspect that your pet may be suffering from a cardiovascular problem, don’t delay in making an appointment to get him or her examined. We are happy to help.
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Schertz Animal Hospital
Since 1976, Schertz Animal Hospital has offered the greater San Antonio area outstanding pet care. Our state-of-the-art animal hospital in Schertz, TX compliments our stress-free handling and experienced veterinary staff. Make an appointment online or give us a call at (210) 659-0345 today!