It is very sad and stressful news to receive a diagnosis that your beloved dog has congestive heart failure. Unfortunately, some large breeds and many small breeds are prone to congestive heart failure as they age.

On the bright side, it can be treated with lifestyle changes and medication. It is important that you, as a dog owner, know the symptoms and recognize them to get early treatment and give your dog the best chance of recovery.

Symptoms and signs in Dogs of CHF


Congestive heart failure is a problem with the heart wherein it experiences difficulty in pumping blood supply throughout the body. It results in blood backing up into the lungs. Fluid also accumulates in some parts of the chest or abdomen. This further prevents oxygen from circulating throughout the dog’s body!


Right-sided congestive heart failure

This happens when a heart contraction makes blood leaks from the right ventricle through the tricuspid valve into the right atrium. Whereas the blood is supposed to be pushed through the lungs and be oxygenated. This results in the main circulation system becoming congested with backed-up blood, and interferes with the proper function of the affected organs and causes swelling in the limbs.

Left-sided congestive heart failure

The most common type of heart failure for dogs happens when a heart contraction makes a blood leak from the left ventricle leaks through the mitral valve into the left atrium. Unfortunately, results in heavy pressure on the left side of the heart, causing fluid to leak into the tissue of the lungs which makes dogs cough and find it difficult to breathe.


It is important to observe and recognize if your dog is experiencing these symptoms that might be a sign of heart failure. Should you notice your dog having these symptoms, talk to your vet to prevent further health complications.

  • Struggling to breathe
  • Coughing up blood
  • Coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Constant panting and looking anxious
  • Reluctance or refusal to exercise or move excessively
  • Distended abdomen
  • Collapsing


A congenital heart defect is a genetic condition that is passed on from the dog’s predecessors. While it cannot be prevented, it is important to know if your dog has these genes so that you can adjust your dog’s lifestyle early on. Small breeds are more prone to this illness due to the fast rate of degeneration of their heart valves, while other breeds develop this disease due to the dilation of heart muscles.

Some dogs may not have this defective gene and yet develop CHF due to an unhealthy lifestyle. Obesity and heartworm weaken the heart making him prone to other heart conditions such as CHF.


Your vet will diagnose your dog for heart irregularities and murmur. If your vet is not a specialist, he may refer you to a cardiologist for further examination and treatment.

Diagnosis procedures for CHF include X-rays, electrocardiograms, and echocardiograms. It is also important to test blood and urine to rule out other possible causes or diseases that are causing the symptoms above.

Your dog may undergo oxygen therapy and hospitalization if he is having a hard time to breath. Your vet will give your dog medication to remove the fluid from his lungs and abdomen. Your vet will also provide medication to relax the blood vessels to help the heart pump blood easily. Other medications include those to strengthen blood pumping pressure so the blood will not back up.

After these treatments, your vet will give you pointers on change of lifestyle for your dog to ensure that he remains as healthy and comfortable as possible.