Dog Heart Failure Heart Failure in Dogs may occur as a result of certain changes in how the heart pumps blood to the body. Sam Meisler DVM, a small animal veterinarian, discusses dog heart failure in terms of how it happens and what one can do to diagnose and treat heart failure in dogs.
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Heart Failure in Dogs Heart failure in dogs can be devastating and usually occurs in older dogs. A dog with heart failure can exhibit swollen abdomen. During a physical examination, your veterinarian will listen for a heart murmur -a whosh, whosh sound - caused by turbulence in the heart. This turbulence is caused by blood flowing abnormally through the heart. The most common abnormality in older smaller dogs is the heart valves (doors between heart chambers) not closing up completely. If a heart valve does not close completely, then when the heart pumps – or squeezes - some of the blood will actually flow backwards making for an ineffivient heart. The heart valves need to shut tightly so that all of the blood moves forward into the body not backwards. An inefficient heart has to work harder and, because it is a muscle, will become enlarged.
Upon hearing a heart murmur, the veterinarian will perform an x-ray to see which valve is affected. When fluid moves backwards, it collects in the lungs causing congestion which can be seen on an x-ray. Medications can be given to enlarge the blood vessels going away from the heart to allow more blood to move forward leaving less blood to move backwards and cause the congestion. Medications such as diuretics cab be used to decrease the amount of fluid going through the heart in the first place.
Your veterinarian can help you manage your dog’s condition to attain a more efficient heart. X-rays, electrocardiograms, even EKG’s are additional methods of diagnosing the heart condition but the physical exam is fundamental.
- Sam Meisler DVM
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