Dog Heart Failure When to Euthanize? (13 Quick Facts)


Dogs are not spared from heart complications. This is typified in the inability or insufficiency of the dog’s heart to pump blood to the vital body organs. Heart failures will reduce the quality of your dog’s life. With the situation deteriorating, when would be the best time to euthanize a dog with heart failure?

If after treatment, the fainting episodes don’t subside, the sudden collapses don’t reduce, the abdominal distension don’t normalize, your dog still struggles to breathe, and yet has frequent coughing bouts, it is symptomatic of severe deterioration in your dog’s quality of life. You could then consult with your vet if euthanizing your dog may be the best option to relieve it of the agony.

The choice to euthanize your dog with heart failure is obviously not the easiest to make. You need the correct information to ensure it is the last and valid option. How can you be sure the symptoms your dog is displaying are genuinely indicative of heart failure? How should the cough sound? How long can your dog live with heart failure, and can it be treated? Read on to get authoritative answers in this guide.

How Long Can Dogs Live with Heart Failure?

With the right treatment plan, your dog’s survival span for heart failure can be appreciably lengthened. It helps to discuss the befitting medication and care therapy for your dog.

Aside from using medications like furosemide, pimobendan, and benazepril, your vet would formulate the best care plan for your dog. This would comprise the right dieting and significant reduction in your dog’s physical exertions.

More than this, you would need to faithfully keep up with your vet for periodic checkups to ascertain the condition of your dog’s lungs and hearts. 

This depends on the cause of congestive heart failure and the stage. Take the cardiac arrest caused by degenerative mitral valve disease. The symptoms of this disease are usually suppressed at the start.

However, by the time such degenerative mitral valve disease progresses to congestive heart failure, the dog’s chances of survival are drastically reduced. By this time, the dog’s survival span ranges between 6-14 months.

Studies have shown that the average time between stage C heart condition and advanced heart failure in dogs is approximately 163 days. After such advanced heart failure is diagnosed, the dog rarely survives more than nine months.

Indeed, in some cases, the dog could end up living more than 880 days. But there are also cases where the dog dies as early as 72 hours after the advanced heart failure diagnosis.

While there is no scientifically established time for this, it is well known that senior dogs are more prone to death from congestive heart failure. This is because of the natural deterioration of body organs and the reduction in resilience that comes with aging.

Stages of Heart Failure in Dogs

Basically, there are four stages of heart failure in dogs. These are classified as Stage A, B, C, and D of heart failure.

Going by the specifications of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine classification, Stage C and D are more commonly associated with congestive heart failure.

  • Stage A mirrors a dog whose breeds increase its predisposition to heart disease. However, this inclination has not physically affected the dog’s heart. Also contained in Stage A are dogs with existing conditions (that increase their heart disease risks) but have healthy hearts.
  • Stage B encompasses dogs in which a heart murmur was detected on physical examination. Nevertheless, the dog’s heart’s structural integrity (or makeup) at this stage is yet to be compromised. Also, dogs in this phase don’t yet exhibit any other clinical sign of congestive heart failure.
  • For Stage C, the dog is already manifesting conditions symptomatic of congestive heart failure.
  • By Stage D, the dog’s congestive heart failure condition has consolidated up to unresponsiveness to treatment.

Is Dog Heart Failure Painful?

While dogs with heart failure tend to experience labored breathing and coughing, sharp pain or physical hurt cases are rare.

Your dog could also experience difficulty breathing (more particular to dogs who habitually sleep sideways), a swollen stomach – courtesy of an unnatural buildup of fluid in the abdomen – and increased weakness.

Can Dogs Survive Congestive Heart Failure?

It is not possible to wholesomely reverse congestive heart failure in dogs. Nonetheless, your dog’s survival span can be appreciably increased (and the severity of the symptoms reduced) by adopting the right treatment plan.

Most of these therapies focus on improving the pumping and distribution of blood to the body organs like the lung by decreasing the heart’s fluid buildup.

Some of the most effective treatments vets resort to in treating congestive heart failure include the use of diuretics, calcium channel blockers, ace inhibitors, beta-blockers, and digoxin.

Using Calcium Channel Blockers

Vets leverage calcium channel blockers to enhance the relaxation of the dog’s heart muscles. This is to suppress the instability, improving the steadiness of the dog’s heart rhythm.

These blockers are also effective in reducing the speeding of your dog’s heartbeat. Such procedures diminish the chances of cardiac arrest.

Use ACE Inhibitors

ACE inhibitors’ efficiency in treating congestive heart failures can be largely attributed to their capacity to dilate the dog’s blood vessels. This way, there is lesser resistance to the flow of blood.

In the face of such reduced resistance to flow, there is a lesser workload on the heart. ACE inhibitors are the most frequently adopted treatment plan for congestive heart failure. Indeed, most vets like to combine them with other therapies.

Beta-Blockers Work Too

Vets resort to beta-blockers in normalizing the rhythm of your dog’s heart. These blockers achieve this by slashing the volume of demand for oxygen from your dog’s system, consequently reducing its heart’s beating speed.

Besides this, diuretics are excellent options for eliminating unhealthy fluid accumulation in the heart region. Some vets also use inodilators to increase muscle heart strength, enhancing blood’s smooth passage to neighboring vessels.

Can a Dog Die Suddenly from Congestive Heart Failure?

Cases of sudden death in dogs from congestive heart failure are common. Following cardiac arrest, the dog’s condition often deteriorates drastically.

Such arrest is commonly followed by the dog collapsing and becoming unconscious. This can be succeeded by the progressive shutdown of the dog’s bodily functions.

Should the dog not be quickly resuscitated – say within the first five minutes – it could die. This is only expected as an average dog can’t survive more than 6 minutes of sustained oxygen deprivation to vital body organs like the brain.

What Does Dog Heart Failure Cough Sound Like?

Dogs with heart failure cough as there is an unhealthy accumulation of fluids in their heart region. This common is labored and sometimes whizzes.

However, if your dog’s activity levels are not distorted and yet retains a healthy appetite, a harsh cough (especially that terminating in a gag) is not certainly indicative of heart failure.

How to Soothe a Dog with Congestive Heart Failure?

There are both medicinal and non-medicinal home care plans to soothe your dog if it has congestive heart failure. You should be diligent with administering its medication if your vet recommends them to correct the irregularities in your dog’s pulse.

Following the diagnosis of heart failure in your dog, you need to regularly monitor and check its heart and the progress the adopted treatment plan is making. Upon stabilizing the dog’s condition, you could reduce the frequency of such tests.

In this guide, we will further learn the befitting diet and exercise plan to soothe a dog with congestive heart failure.

How Many Breaths Per Minute Should a Dog with Congestive Heart Failure Have?

When your dog’s breathing rates when sleeping perpetually exceed (or lesser than) 30 breaths/minute, it is indicative of a heart abnormality.

How Does a Dog Get Congestive Heart Failure?

Valvular insufficiency is the most prominent cause of congestive heart failure in dogs. Chief among these conditions is mitral valve insufficiency (MVI). The latter accounts for 80% of congestive heart failures in dogs.

In other cases, cardiomyopathy (a heart muscle dysfunction), principal blood vessel constriction, and significant irregularities in heart rhythm can cause congestive heart failure.

Aging, infection, injury, and diet can also increase your dog’s risk of getting congestive heart failure.

Should You Walk a Dog with Congestive Heart Failure?

A dog with congestive heart failure doesn’t need exhaustive physical stimulation. Overexerting by walking it over long distances can pile up more stress in the heart, triggering an aggravation in the heart condition and worsening irregularities in heart rhythms.

If your dog has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure, avoid intensive exercises like lengthy running, long hikes, swimming, and ball chasing.

What Do You Feed a Dog with Congestive Heart Failure?

The meals you feed a dog diagnosed with congestive heart failure should be low in sodium. This is mainly in cases where the heart failure is already in Stage D.

If your dog is not yet in this stage (typical of asymptomatic heart disease cases), you must not necessarily feed it low-sodium foods. Starving it of salt as such deficiency could trigger the activation of undesirable hormones.

However, you must effortfully keep off table snacks and other high-salt food off your dog’s eating menu. In place of store-bought treats, you should feed your dog home-made alternatives that contain minimal salt.

What Dog Breeds are Prone to Congestive Heart Failure?

Certain dog breeds have increased vulnerability to congestive heart failure. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are some of the most susceptible to heart failures.

As early as five years of age, 50% of these dogs develop a heart murmur, which indicates a heart abnormality. Almost 95% of cavaliers develop heart murmur by age 10.

Daschunds are also prone to congestive heart failure. This breed is ill-famed for developing a leaky heart valve. Doberman Pinschers, miniature, and toy poodles also fall into this prone list.

Will a Humidifier Help a Dog with Congestive Heart Failure?

No, a humidifier will not necessarily pacify a dog with congestive heart failure.

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