The heart is a pump, and when your dog’s heart can no longer effectively pump blood through the body, it results in fluid accumulating in various parts of the body. This serious condition is known as congestive heart failure. It can be caused by disease, age or hereditary factors.
Congestive heart failure in dogs can be treated with oxygen therapy and other methods, but these treatments are more about protecting the quality of life and slowing progression of the disease. Unfortunately, the condition cannot be cured. If it progresses, it becomes fatal.
If your dog has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure, you’ll want to work closely with your veterinarian, who can review treatment option with you and suggest options. Your dog may need surgery or medication. In most cases, you'll be taught how to monitor your pet’s respiratory rate, and you'll have an action plan with your vet outlining what you should do if that rate ever becomes abnormal.
How Can I Help My Dog With Heart Failure?
Once you've spoken with your veterinarian, you may want to review the following options for helping your dog and improving their quality of life:
- Diet: Talk to your dog’s vet about switching to a low-sodium diet. Your dog may need vitamins, or portions may need to be addressed.
- Exercise: Your pet may still be able to exercise, but you'll want to make sure they don't overexert themselves. Discuss how much activity is right for your dog, and make sure everyone who walks or cares for your pet understands the limitations.
- Stress: Here is something you can really do for your dog. Reduce their stress level and try to make their life as pleasant as possible. This is the time to enjoy with your pet — to show them how much they mean to you and make sure they want for nothing. Shower them with affection and love, which really is a language dogs understand. As much as possible, try to maintain a calm environment to reduce stress on the heart.
- Monitoring: Keep an eye out for any new symptoms, and maintain good communication with your vet. Any changes should be reported, and you may need to stop in more often for a full evaluation. Take the time to attend vet appointments and monitor your dog’s progress at home. Since you’ll be getting lots of information, consider keeping an organized notebook where you can list food times and amounts, symptoms, appointments, medication and more.
Today’s treatments for canine congestive heart failure are better than ever before. While in the past, dogs could expect to live only months with this diagnosis, some dogs today are able to enjoy a good quality of life and live with congestive heart failure for years with the right treatment.
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