Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs – 7 Holistic Solutions

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Congestive heart failure in dogs can be managed with natural remedies such as vitamin supplements (B1, taurine, L-carnitine, Coenzyme Q10), Omega-3 fatty acids, and herbal treatments like dandelion and nettle. These remedies aim to support cardiac function, reduce inflammation, and improve overall well-being.

Sometimes some dogs have a big heart…
But this anomaly is very harmful to their health if it is not treated in time.

What is congestive heart failure in dogs?
Why does your dog suddenly gasp?
Why is his gait slowing down?
Why does he suddenly appear so much more tired and less playful?

Let’s detail together the causes and consequences of this condition which frequently affects our four-legged friends.

Signs of heart failure in dogs

As you know, the heart is the most essential organ in the body.
Its role is to pump blood through the arteries to distribute it to each organ.
In short, a closed circuit that allows the body to function properly.

The heart is a muscle that is made up of four chambers:

  • the left atrium
  • the right atrium
  • the right ventricle
  • the left ventricle

The right atrium receives the oxygen-deprived blood and sends it to the right ventricle which propels it to the lungs for it to oxygen again.
It then returns to the left atrium which sends it to the left ventricle to propel it to the rest of the body through the aorta.

The atrium and left ventricle are separated from the right atrium and ventricle by valves that prevent blood from deviating from its path.
The problem is often here when your dog gets cardiac as he gets older.
These valves degenerate and lose their original shape.

Depending on the affected valve, the dog may have left heart failure if the mitral valve is affected or right heart failure if the tricuspid valve has failed.

When blood is pumped from one chamber to another, the defective valve tends to push blood back into the starting chamber.
And since the circulatory circuit is closed, this failure causes pressure in the chambers which leads to increased pressure in the muscles of the heart.
The heart, therefore, begins to pump harder to keep sending blood through the body, which explains the congestion of heart failure. 

But the heart can overcome this increase for a while.
The dog then shows no symptoms.

Over time, the heart begins to be overwhelmed, to weaken before it is no longer able to endure this permanent overwork.
The dog is then showing clinical signs.

canine congestive heart failure

Dog heart failure symptoms

At this point, you begin to notice a behavior change.

Congestive heart failure is the inability of the heart to pump enough blood for the whole body and preserve the circulatory system.

The diagnosis of this disease can be very distressing, especially since certain breeds of dogs are genetically predisposed.
But you should be aware that it can be contained with specific treatment and some lifestyle changes.

This is why recognizing early signs of congestive heart failure in dogs is crucial.

The first signs your dog is likely to show are related to the affected side of the heart.

      – If he is suffering from the left side, the blood arriving in the atrium is pushed back to the lungs causing a buildup of fluids that we call pulmonary edema.

The dog shows:

  • breathing difficulties
  • persistent cough
  • reduced stamina
  • exercise intolerance
  • fainting
  • lethargy

      – If the right side is affected, blood arriving in the right atrium is pushed back to the rest of the body, leading to a build-up of fluids in certain cavities and in particular the belly. We then speak of ascites.

Some veins may leak, the blood then stagnates in the limbs, this is peripheral edema.

Note that if mitral insufficiency (left side) is left untreated, it can severely damage the heart and ultimately affect the right side, spreading the disease to the whole heart.

What causes congestive heart failure in dogs?

Apart from valve damage, heart failure can also develop due to an abnormal heart rhythm.

A nutritional disorder such as taurine deficiency or certain genetic problems can also affect the heart muscle.

Small dogs are more likely to develop heart failure from valve degeneration such as mitral insufficiency and large dogs are more affected by a dilated heart muscle called dilated cardiomyopathy.

In addition, certain conditions attack the heart valves such as bacterial infections or heartworm.

Obesity can also predispose to problems that can lead to heart failure in young dogs.

Diagnosis of dog heart failure

Your vet will give your dog a full exam.
It begins by listening to the heart and lungs for a heart murmur and crackles in the lungs.
The heart murmur is caused by the increase in circulation in the valves.

The dog may also exhibit a somewhat purple tongue indicating a lack of oxygen in the blood.

The veterinarian can also detect a high heart rate as well as high blood pressure.

All of these signs will prompt your vet to further investigate by practicing:

  • a chest x-ray to assess the size of the heart
  • an ultrasound of the heart to detail the actual state of the heart chambers
  • an electrocardiogram (ECG) to check the heart’s electrical current and assess any abnormalities in the electrical conduction
  • blood tests to assess kidney and liver function

dog coughing and gagging congestive heart failure

Dog heart disease treatment

Treating heart failure is essential to improve muscle strength, control possible arrhythmia, and maintain normal blood pressure and adequate blood circulation.
It is also imperative to manage to heal excess fluids from the lungs, chest, and abdomen.

Again, treatment depends on your dog’s specific condition.

If he is in respiratory distress, your dog must be hospitalized urgently.
He will then be placed under oxygen to be stabilized.

If the heart failure is due to mitral damage, your dog may be treated with Pimobendane (Vetmedin), a positive inotrope that strengthens the contraction of the heart and improves blood circulation.

Prescribing a diuretic like furosemide significantly reduces fluid buildup in the lungs.

Finally, an ACE, an angiotensin-converting enzyme, like Enalapril is added to relax blood vessels and reduce hypertension while helping the heart to pump more efficiently.

Dog heart failure natural treatment

  • B vitamins

Vitamin B1 (thiamine) deficiency can be the cause of overall heart failure.

In addition, the use of diuretics and in particular furosemide leads to a thiamine deficiency.

Some studies show that this deficiency can worsen the disease and that supplementation significantly improves left ventricular function.

You can thus supplement your dog with vitamin b1 or by using a vitamin B complex which, while filling a possible deficiency, will bring calm and relaxation (ad).

  • Taurine

Taurine is a sulfur amino acid derivative with cardioprotective action that helps moderate cardiovascular disorders by improving muscle contraction.

It also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

It has been shown that a taurine deficiency can be the cause of dilated cardiomyopathy (DMC), right ventricular function affected.

The recommended dosage is 500mg/day in dogs under 22 pounds, 1000mg between 22 and 55 pounds, and 2000mg in dogs weighing more than 55 pounds, divided into two daily intakes.

Ask your vet for a blood test for your dog’s taurine level and opt for a quality taurine (ad).

The combination of L-carnitine and taurine in the treatment of tauriprive dilated cardiomyopathy can lead to a marked decline in the disease or even its disappearance.

  • L-Carnitine

Again, carnitine deficiency can be the cause of dilated cardiomyopathy (right ventricle).

Carnitine is essential for the proper functioning of muscles and by definition, of the heart, for which it is a real fuel.

It thus improves the capacity to provide physical efforts when there is a cardiovascular disorder.

Carnitine supplementation can improve symptoms of heart disease, produce healthy energy, and sometimes even significantly reduce medication.

The recommended dosage of carnitine is 50-200mg/kg of body weight.

Favor acetyl l-carnitine rather than l-carnitine alone because its form is more absorbable by the body (ad).

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  • Co-enzyme Q10

Co-enzyme Q10 is a powerful antioxidant, essential in ATP generation and actively supporting the immune system.

Both in humans and animals, it has been shown that an insufficient level is always present in heart problems and it is proven that every cell in the body contains Coq10 concentrated in the mitochondria, the part of the cells in charge of energy production.

It is therefore recommended to treat congestive heart failure, mitral insufficiency, and high blood pressure while providing a noticeable boost in energy.

Go for a Ubiquinol supplement, the form most easily absorbed by the body and delivered in soft capsules containing oil (ad).

The dry form of the capsules performs much less well.

The indicated dosage is 1mg per kg of body weight per day.

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  • Omega 3

Omega 3 fatty acids are of great benefit in the treatment of heart disease in dogs.

They have anti-inflammatory and anti-arrhythmic action which can be of great benefit by significantly reducing the production of inflammatory cytokines.

They also counteract the loss of muscle mass and weight due to disease.

Some studies have even shown that Omega 3s can help reshape the heart and regulate blood pressure.

It is judicious to supplement here and there even a dog in good shape to reinforce his immune system, fight against possible osteoarthritis, and in the prevention of any inflammatory disease.

For a cardiac dog, it is recommended to administer 100mg/kg of weight per day from a quality fish oil like this (ad).

  • Cardiac support

If all these supplements seem difficult to manage, you can opt for a formula adapted to dog heart failure by administering a supplement including taurine, L-carnitine, Coq10, and hawthorn.

Hawthorn is also indicated in the treatment of heart disease because it improves blood pressure, controls cholesterol, and reduces symptoms such as difficulty breathing and fatigue.

Cardiac support brings together all these ingredients by adapting the dosages for dogs and cats (ad).

Remember to combine fish oil with this supplement to be as complete as possible.

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CHF in dogs – Natural remedies

  • Dandelion

A dandelion tincture is a natural diuretic (ad).

But unlike traditional diuretics which cause dangerous potassium deficiency, dandelion contains that same potassium and is safe.

The recommended dosage is 1 to 2ml per 44 pounds of weight once or twice a day.

  • Nettle

There is a proven correlation between magnesium levels and heart disease.

It is sometimes useful to try supplementing with magnesium to reduce symptoms and improve general condition.

An easy way to get your dog magnesium is through nettle tea.

Nettle also has mild diuretic properties while containing a high level of magnesium.

Introduce a cup of nettle tea per day in his usual water for a dog of about twenty pounds (ad).

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Keep your pet healthy with antioxydants

Changes in heart failure

Nutrition is the major key to treating heart failure.

Changes should now focus on sufficient calorie intake, drastic reduction in salt (avoid canned foods), and supplementation with Omega 3 fatty acids to reduce inflammation and control arrhythmia.

For severely affected dogs, suffering from a build-up of fluids in the thorax or abdomen, there are surgeries called thoracentesis or abdominocentesis which is a puncture of fluid in the lung or abdomen.

Stress reduction is also crucial.

Do not encourage your dog to do strenuous exercise and if he suffers from recurring edema, ask your vet for a prescription for tranquilizers to help him overcome these episodes.

chf in dogs

Dog heart failure prevention

Unfortunately, there is no effective prevention of this common disease, and the proposed treatment is done to improve the quality of your friend’s life.
In general, the prognosis for congestive heart failure is poor but tends to improve over time due to advances in research, and new drugs proposed.

If you live in an area where heartworm is present, make sure your dog receives preventative medication regularly.

If your dog is diagnosed with heart failure, regular visits to your veterinarian should be scheduled to assess the effects of treatment and possibly adjust the protocol. 

Alertness, stress management, diet, and constant care can significantly extend your dog’s life.
But remember, the sooner this disease is detected and treated, the more longevity and comfortable quality of life you provide to your dog.

Explore 19 Dog Health Problems and their Natural Solutions

My opinion on Pimobendane

Twice in my life, I have had to accompany a dog with mitral insufficiency.

The first was placed on Pimobendane (Vetmedin) upon diagnosis of his disease.
Unfortunately, this drug did not improve his symptoms as expected but increased his cardiac arrhythmia and worsened his shortness of breath.

I had to refuse this drug after researching this substance.

I learned that it is tested on humans only in Japan but in moderation due to its side effects, including the dangerous cardiac arrhythmia it causes.

Note that the symptoms were the same as my dog’s, namely an erratic heartbeat, severe shortness of breath, and precipitous exhaustion which led to, as far as my dog ​​is concerned, a very shortened survival.

For the second cardiac dog, I immediately refused the introduction of Pimobendane and followed the protocol I detail above.
His quality of life was thus maintained for two consecutive years without pulmonary edema.

But when his condition deteriorated somewhat and he experienced his first edema, a veterinarian unresponsive to natural solutions injected him with Pimobendane without informing me.
The same effects occurred, the heartbeat became erratic, and the dog quickly exhausted.
He only got over this malfunction for a few weeks.

My personal experience has shown me that it makes more sense to treat heart failure in dogs in a natural and balanced way.

Accept no more than an ACE, an Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme inhibitor like Enalapril to support his heart.
They have been proven even in humans although they also have a lot of side effects, and in particular, worsen heart cough.
But Pimobendane did not convince either the Japanese doctors or me.

Frequently asked questions about congestive heart failure in dogs

How to ensure the comfort of a dog with congestive heart failure?

It is important to limit your dog’s physical activity so as not to aggravate his heart and lung problems.
You need to slow him down and keep him playing calmly to avoid exhaustion.
Likewise, you must protect him from the heat which may also aggravate his disease.

Is my dog’s heart failure painful?

Well cared for, your dog does not suffer from his heart condition.
However, it must be closely monitored so that pulmonary edema does not form.
This is an emergency that requires the intervention of a veterinarian to relieve it quickly.

Can a dog recover from fluid in the lungs?

If you take your dog to the vet as soon as you notice his breathing difficulties, he will be injected with a diuretic and a cardiac stimulant.
Under the effect of the diuretic, your dog will evacuate the fluids lodged in his lungs and will regain his normal breathing capacity.
He will survive this episode but you will have to increase your monitoring to avoid a recurrence.

How to recognize the symptoms of pulmonary edema in dogs?

Your dog appears weak, coughs frequently, and his breathing is accelerated.
You hear crackling sounds with each breath and he seems to be gasping for air with his mouth open.
He also presents an intolerance of any effort.

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"Natural health is essential to me; I've always relied on natural remedies alongside traditional medicine."

"The content of this article is not intended to replace medical advice or any treatment."

2 thoughts on “Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs – 7 Holistic Solutions”

  1. Thank you!!!!!
    One question, not sure if you are suggesting this or not?

    Accept no more than an ACE, an Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme inhibitor like Enalapril to support his heart.

  2. Thank you for your comment, Valerie.
    Yes, the best way to support the heart is to add an ACE, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor like Enalapril.

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