Do dogs with CHF suffer?

Dogs in congestive heart failure typically do not display obvious signs of pain. However, humans in congestive heart failure have described chest pain as a factor, so it’s possible dogs also experience some discomfort. Seek veterinary care if you feel your pet is in pain.

Canine congestive heart failure (CHF) is a progressive, irreversible heart condition that affects thousands of dogs each year. It is characterized by a weakened and/or dilated heart that is unable to pump blood effectively throughout the body. Dogs with CHF can become increasingly ill over time as the heart fails to do its job. It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of CHF so your pet can receive timely and appropriate care and treatment. But what about the suffering? Do dogs with CHF suffer? In this blog post, we will explore this important question and provide some insight into how to best care for your dog with CHF. The goal is to provide an educational resource to help pet owners both understand and advocate for the wellbeing of their canine companions.

What is congestive heart failure?

The term “congestive heart failure” (CHF) describes the heart’s inability to adequately pump blood to the body. There are many causes of CHF in dogs. The two most common causes are:

  • mitral valve insufficiency (MVI). MVI is a leaky mitral valve, which is the valve between the left atrium and the left ventricle.
  • dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).
  • Please refer to the handouts “Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Dogs” and “Mitral Valve Disease in Dogs” for more details on these specific causes.

    Depending on whether the dog has left- or right-sided heart failure, the clinical signs of CHF change.

    What is the difference between right-sided and left-sided CHF?

    Congestive heart failure of the right side (RS-CHF) results in inadequate venous blood return to the heart. In other words, when the heart contracts or pumps, some blood leaks through the tricuspid valve (the valve between the right atrium and right ventricle) back into the right atrium instead of the right ventricle pushing the blood through the lungs for oxygenation. This blood builds up in the body’s main circulation, the systemic circulation, which causes congestion. The organs in the abdomen are hampered by fluid buildup, which is in the abdominal cavity. The abdomen may fill with fluid, a condition called ascites. Peripheral edema, or swelling from fluid leakage from veins in the limbs, is another possibility.

    When the heart contracts or pumps in people with left-sided congestive heart failure (LS-CHF), some blood leaks through the mitral valve back into the left atrium and then backs up into the lungs instead of the left ventricle pushing the blood into the systemic circulation. Afterward, fluid seeps into the tissue of the lungs, causing pulmonary edema. This causes coughing and difficulty breathing. The most prevalent type of congestive heart failure is left-sided congestive heart failure (LS-CHF). Most frequently, LS-CHF results in coughing up fluid in the chest and other classic signs of heart failure.

    Is there a cure for Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs?

    Unfortunately, there is generally no cure for heart disease. However, with the proper care, it is manageable, and the majority of dogs respond favorably to medication and treatment.


    How do you know if congestive heart failure is getting worse in dogs?

    Pets will experience progressively worse breathing issues as their heart failure worsens. Your pet may wheeze while sleeping or otherwise at rest, or you may notice her sides heaving more when she breathes. She might also pant or breathe more frequently with her mouth open.

    How can I make my dog comfortable with congestive heart failure?

    How to Help a Dog with Congestive Heart Failure
    1. Medication. …
    2. Pacemaker. …
    3. Low-Salt Diet. …
    4. Exercise Management. …
    5. Supplements. …
    6. Being Careful About Treats.

    What are the symptoms of the final stages of congestive heart failure in dogs?

    Stage 4: CHF is in its final stage. Breathing becomes difficult even when at rest. It can be difficult to walk due to swollen legs or a bloated stomach caused by fluid accumulation in various body parts. It can even cause vomiting.

    How long will my dog live with congestive heart failure?

    Many of the affected animals might pass away from unrelated diseases because degenerative mitral valve disease is a progressive condition with a slow onset of clinical signs. However, once congestive heart failure sets in, a patient’s expected survival time ranges from 6 to 14 months.