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Treatment for Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

Treatment for congestive heart failure in dogs include drug therapy, use of vitamins and other supplements, and dietary control.

Golden Retriever

Because congestive heart failure in dogs is the end result of some form of heart disease, treatment of heart failure involves identifying and addressing the underlying cause. While most underlying heart diseases are rarely curable, some, if diagnosed at an early stage, can be cured (e.g. some congenital heart problems, or problems caused by heartworm infestation). A proper diagnosis is therefore extremely important.

Diagnosis is usually done using some or all of the following:

  • Chest x-rays: X-rays are used to observe the physical conditions and characteristics of the heart, such as the heart's size and shape.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG): ECG can detect the presence of arrhythmia, i.e. irregular heartbeats.
  • Echocardiograms: These are used to determine the extent of normality and functioning of the heart, such as the strength of heartbeats, or the presence of congenital birth defects.
  • Blood and urine tests: These tests are needed to determine the proper functioning of the kidneys, liver and other organs. If abnormalities are found, it may indicate that one or more of these organs are involved in the heart failure process, or the dog patient is suffering from some other diseases.
  • Heartworm tests: As heartworm infestations can cause heart disease, tests for the presence of heartworm larvae are also necessary.

Treatment of the heart failure itself involves mainly the use of medications to increase heart function and prevent cardiac arrhythmias. Other additional treatment includes the use of supplements and vitamins, dietary control, and exercise restriction.

Drugs for Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

Conventional medications used for congestive heart failure in dogs include:
  • ACE inhibitors: These drugs work to reduce blood pressure and volume. As a result, the heart will be less stressed and the heart muscles will not deteriorate as fast. ACE inhibitors, such as enalapril maleate (Enacard) and benazepril (Fortekor) are commonly used in dogs with cardiomyopathy and valvular heart disease.
  • Digitalis-type drugs: Digitalis glycosides are commonly used to control heart rates that are too fast.
  • Diuretics: Diuretics such as furosemide (Lasix) are used to manage fluid build-up in the lungs and elsewhere.

Supplements for Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

If your dog is suffering from congestive heart failure, the following supplements may help:

  • Vitamins A, B6, C, and E: These vitamins have antioxidant properties and can help eliminate free radicals from the body, thereby protecting the heart from damage by free radicals.
  • Coenzyme Q10: This supplement is recommended to dogs with heart problems because CoQ10 strengthens the heart muscles and improves heart muscle oxygenation.
  • L-Taurine and L-Carnitine: These are amino acids that are beneficial to the heart. L-Carnitine enables cells in the body to transport fatty acids (fuel) to the heart. L-Taurine helps maintain a healthy and normal output of potassium from the heart muscles, thereby lowering the risk of heart disease.
Here is a good supplement that you may want to consider:

Vet Classics Canine Cardiovascular Support for Dogs

It contains CoQ10, L-Taurine and L-Carnitine, vitamin E, and various herbs that are good for dogs with congestive heart failure or other congenital heart diseases.

Diet and Exercise for Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

Dogs with congestive heart failure should be put on a low-salt diet.

Moderate exercise is beneficial to dogs with mild cases of heart failure. However, if your dog is showing symptoms such as coughing, panting, and easy tiring after exercise, then it is not advisable to allow your dog to engage in such exercise or activities that bring about these symptoms.
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