Heart Failure, Congestive (Right-sided) in Dogs

PetMD Editorial
Jul 16, 2008
2 min read
Image: Photo Grapher / via Image Bank

Congestive Heart Failure (Right-sided) in Dogs

Right-sided congestive heart failure occurs when the heart fails to pump blood at the rate required to meet the basic needs of the body. While it is not curable, there are treatment options that can improve the quality of life for your dog.

Symptoms

All organ systems in the body can be affected by congestive heart failure. Common signs include weakness, lethargy, difficulty breathing, an enlarged liver, and abdominal distension. Upon physical examination, several signs of the disease may present, including jugular vein distention, heart murmur, and rapid, shallow breathing.

Causes

Heartworms can be a cause for congestive heart failure. In some cases, congenital heart conditions are hereditary, particularly with the Boxer breed. In other cases, a weak heart muscle can cause congestive heart failure.

Diagnosis

Your veterinarian will need to differentiate between causes for the heart failure when examining your dog. A complete blood profile will be conducted, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis. Other diagnostic tests include heartworm testing and fluid analysis to determine the cause. In addition, you will need to give a thorough history of your dog's health, onset of symptoms, and possible incidents that might have preceded this condition. The history you provide may give your veterinarian clues as to which organs are being affected secondarily. Additionally, if there is any information you can give about your dog's familial line, it can help your doctor to pinpoint the origin of the heart condition.

Treatment

Most dogs are treated on an outpatient basis unless the condition is severe. Some of the treatment options that are used to treat this condition include a restriction of activity, and a reduction of sodium in the diet. In some cases, surgery will be required. If there is a build up of fluid in the abdomen or the chest, a technique called "tapping" can be used to remove some of the excess fluid.

Living and Management

Following treatment, it is important to administer the full course of prescribed medication and observe any abnormalities in your dog's behavior. It will also be necessary to monitor your dog's kidney health. This disease is not curable, so ongoing management will be required.

Prevention

Preventing right-sided congestive heart failure is dependent on the underlying cause of the disease. For example, if heartworms are the cause of the heart diseases, you will need to ensure that your dog is taking heartworm medication regularly, and that you revisit your veterinarian for routine wellness checkups.

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