The diagnosis of heart disease in your dog is hard to hear no matter what the age.  Although it’s more expected when the dogs are older, hearing the diagnosis is still very difficult.

But, it’s not an immediate death sentence and there are alternatives for treating dogs with heart disease. Prognosis really depends on how quickly you get your dog to the vet and an official diagnosis is made.

While genetics certainly play a role, there are several other factors that are major contributors to the disease including lack of exercise, diet and obesity. We’ve actually been pretty lucky with our own dogs when it comes to heart disease, even our seniors.

However, certain breeds like our Doberman Pinscher are at the highest risk for developing Dilated Cardiomyopathy aka enlarged heart.

The Two Types of Heart Disease In Dogs

  1. Congenital – meaning the dog was born with it and most likely it is genetic.
  2. Acquired – affecting middle age to senior dogs and the disease developed over time.

The Most Common Forms Of Dog Heart Disease

  1. Arrhythmias – The dog’s electrical system in the body isn’t telling the heart how to beat.
  2. Pericardial Disease – There is a sac that surrounds the heart and it fills with fluid preventing the heart from beating normally.
  3. Dilated Cardiomyopathy (Our Jenna was diagnosed with this) – This disease affects the muscle of the heart impairing the ability to pump normally. As it progresses, the chambers of the heart become enlarged and valves leak.
  4. Mitral Valve Disease – The heart valves start to leak causing poor circulation and blood pressure.
  5. Chronic Valvular Heart Disease – The heart valves thicken and become impaired.

Please see our recommended natural products here for dogs with chronic heart problems.

Symptoms Of Dog Congestive Heart Failure Depend on Progression

Unfortunately, symptoms appear when the heart actually starts to fail. These are some common signs that a dog may be in mild heart failure:  Learn the symptoms of heatstroke in dogs.

  1. Weight loss
  2. No appetite
  3. Vomiting
  4. Lethargic
  5. Weak
  6. Coughing (noticeable at night)
  7. Difficulty breathing

The following symptoms often occur when a dog is in severe heart failure:

  1. Diarrhea
  2. Loss of energy
  3. Edema (build up of fluid in the body tissues/cavity)
  4. Fainting
  5. Swollen abdomen (ascites) and limbs
  6. Poor circulation – tongue and gum’s are blue in color (monitor your dog’s circulation by checking capillary refill time in your dog’s gum’s – see instructions below)
  7. Depression
  8. Difficulty breathing at all times – even when resting
  9. Excessive thirst and urination
  10. Exercise intolerance (can be a first sign of heart failure – fluid builds in the lungs)
  11. Dog has an increased heart rate and a weak pulse

You Can Monitor Your Dog’s Capillary Refill Time (CRT)

What you are looking for here is how quickly the color returns to your dog’s gum’s when pressure is applied then released. This little test tells how the blood, lungs and heart are doing. How well blood and oxygen are reaching the cells. There are many little capillaries in dogs gum’s and applying pressure to the vessels forces blood out of the capillaries. Once pressure is released, blood should immediately refill the capillaries in roughly 1-2 seconds which is considered the normal refill time.

To give you a better understanding, try this on yourself: firmly press the tip of your own fingernail and watch it turn white; now release and the blood immediately flows back returning the nail to normal color.

**Note – Be sure to take notice of the actual color of your dog’s gums before you start. Most healthy gum’s are pink.

**Note – Don’t check the gum’s when he first wakes up because they will be paler in color (wait approx. 10 minutes) or right after exercise because they will be pinker.

  1. Press your finger against the dog’s gum line over the canine tooth applying pressure until the gum’s turn white underneath your finger and then release.
  2. Once you release your finger – that same area should appear white or paler than the surrounding gum’s.
  3. If the gum’s are yellow (liver problem), blue, pale or white – seek veterinary assistance immediately.
  4. It’s also recommended that if the refill time is less than one second or more than 3 seconds, contact a veterinarian immediately.

Congestive Heart Failure

At the beginning stages of heart disease in your dog, you might not notice many symptoms. As the disease progresses, symptoms will progress and he will then move into congestive heart failure (CHF).

CHF Treatment
Whether you have a healthy dog or a sick dog, I believe in treating the WHOLE dog. This means that you don’t just treat the symptoms like often happens with traditional veterinary care, rather you treat from the inside out as in holistic medicine. Consider using both traditional and holistic treatments for managing his dog heart disease.

Traditional Treatments

  • Activity restriction must be enforced
  • Low sodium diet – A MUST when treating chronic heart failure
  • Diuretics
  • Ace inhibitors
  • Bronchodilators, oxygen and cough suppressants
  • Surgery is often an option, but rare due to cost

Natural Treatment For Dogs with Heart Disease Include the following supplements. However, you should already be giving your dog a multivitamin anyway, regardless if he has heart disease or not.  The following supplements with links would be in addition to a multivitamin since a good multivitamin contains most other amino acids, minerals, etc.  We recommend two different multivitamins. Nuvet is a tablet like a treat and the other is our tasteless powder

  • Coenzyme Q10 – Antioxidant: As directed.
  • Taurine – Amino Acid
  • L-Carnitine – Amino Acid
  • B-Complex
  • Fish Oil Fatty Acids: As directed.
  • Vitamin E
  • Selenium
  • Vitamin C
  • Arginine
  • Hawthorn Berry: Dosage: Cats and small dogs—1/8 human adult dose, Medium dogs—1/4 adult dose, Large dogs—1/2 adult dose, and Giant dogs—whole adult dose. *NOTE: Check with your dog’s vet if your already providing prescription heart medicine.

If you have a water softener in your home, it’s  important to give your dog bottled or filtered water if he or she has heart disease (anytime really), since water softeners contain large amounts of sodium.  I also recommend that you learn CPR for your dog and you can do that here.

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Showing 129 comments
  • peter frayne
    Reply

    Why is Vetmedin so replulsive to dogs, its impossible to get my dog to take it however I disguise it or trick him, is there a tasteless version or a dermal gel. Why do the manufacturers add the bitter element, its not part of the medication

    • janie
      Reply

      Hi Peter:

      Dogs can smell much better than we can and they can smell the chemicals used to make this synthetic drug.

      We prefer natural methods of our heart tonic found here, BioPreparation Algae found here, L-Carnitine and taurine mixed with a HIGH protein natural diet of fresh foods vs using Vetmedin. NOT KIBBLE or CANNED JUNK DOG FOODS. It must be a high protein natural cooked, raw or mixture diet. Use either the natural method or vetmedin, but not both.

      Our cookbook also offers very easy 3-4 ingredient recipes for dogs with heart disease and you can view that here if you like. Here’s the dosages for L Carnitine and Taurine:

      1 gram L-Carnitine per 10 pounds of body weight

      500 mg Taurine per 10 pounds of body weight divided into two daily servings given at least 8 to 12 hours apart. L-Carnitine and Taurine work best when a continuous amount is maintained in the blood.

      I hope this helps.

      Janie

  • Adam
    Reply

    Janie,

    Thanks for a wonderful website and informative article. My pup Shelley has had a heart murmur since 2016 (it was later diagnosed as CHF) and has also been on treatment (Vetmedin, Benazepril, Furo syrup) for it since. Since early August her heart failure got slightly worse, and her health has significantly deteriorated since this past Thursday. She has fainted at least 6 times within a 48 hour period—including three spells with incontinence—and as of yesterday, the vet put her on Baytril (to treat a possible infection) and ordered oxygen to give during her fainting spells.

    She hasn’t eaten since Friday evening, and has thrown up twice today. I’ve been breaking down her pills and have to carry her outside to tinkle. (She hasn’t had anymore accidents but has little to no strength, and is very lethargic at times.) Shelley is half Shih tzu and half Chihuahua and is 12 years old. The Dr thinks she still has some good years left on her treatment program but he agreed that her rapid deterioration since Thursday (when I first took her in) isn’t a good sign for her. I was hoping she’d be hungry again after both vomit sessions, but she shows no interest in food. She’s been resting on blankets on the floor.

    I don’t know what to do. Yesterday’s x rays showed that the heart has significantly worsened. Her breathing is heavier now and she can’t sit up at all. I’m lying beside her as I try to type and she rests her face on my arm.

    Is there anything else I can do at this point to make sure she has a comfortable life? I suspect it might be time to put her down? I hate that, but I don’t want her to suffer or be uncomfortable

    • janie
      Reply

      Hi Adam:

      I’m so sorry ot hear about Shelley. I know this is hard.

      I’m not a fan of using so many different medicines. I think they are all double edge swords. Can I ask what you are feeding Shelley or trying to feed her? Any supplements?

      Janie

  • Dimpi
    Reply

    My male labrador of 2 years has been diagonised with HCM(hypertrophic cardiomyopathy) he is on 2 heart supplements a day and a multi vitamin. I feed him home cooked food containing chicken vegetables and rice. He is not much fond of eating like other labs I have known. His poop is mostly loose. How do I make sure he has a normal long life? He is walked twice a day for 20-30 minutes. He wakes up mid of the night anytime between 1.30 am to 4 and wants attention. Else starts barking. My dad has recently had a heart attack and has to wear cpap machine which requires him to sleep minimum of 8 hours. My furbaby wants his attention mainly during nights. I cant let my dog bark for long because of his own health and also my dad’s. I am umable to find a solution. How do I ensure my dog sleeps atleast until 5 am? I am worried.

  • Aso Walls
    Reply

    I have a shitz shu 12 yrs old she had a heart attack 3 weeks ago, she’s medicines rite now. She doesn’t want to eat and she’s been drinking lots of water til Monday this week. Im running out of options of food to give her, I also put a cap full of pedialyte in her water. What do you recommend.
    Thank yo for your time

    Aso Walls

    • janie
      Reply

      Hi Aso:

      I’m sorry to hear about your dog. She needs a high protein diet. What are you or have you tried to feed her? What about supplements?

      What condition are her teeth in?

      Janie

  • Kelly
    Reply

    Hi,

    My toy rescue yorkie passed away tonight. I am devastated. We believe she’s 10 years plus and was such a fighter, even going through catarax operation 2 years ago which we were advised not to do because of her Tiny size (1kg) which was successful. I was working abroad this week and I’m so upset i wasn’t there for her. The vets said heart failure can occur very rapidly… 24/48 hours. My sister found her panting on the floor early morning with a blue tongue. Is there anything we could of done to prevent this? Is there something we missed? She had her quiet day but others she was full of energy. They gave her intensive treatment for 4 hours placing her in a oxygen tank and giving her injections to clear the fluid. The X-ray showed she had 5% lung capacity when she arrived. Is this normal to happen so suddenly? They took her out the oxygen tank in the afternoon and continued to give her 2 more injections of a lower dosage apparantly because of the effect of the kidneys. This resulted in her turned blue again til she finally gave up, before my sister made it back there. Does this sound normal to you? I’m so upset and angry, I feel more could of been done:( it was all so sudden. Any info or reassurance would be great 🙁 thank you x

  • Kim
    Reply

    Dear Janie,

    My almost 11 year old Australian Shepherd, Kinsey, is in the very early stages of heart failure, her heart is 10.8 (should be 8.6-10.7). She has a heart murmur that is not very pronounced the vet says, but she’s had a slight heart murmur for many years. The vet already did X-rays, which were about $350. She prescribed medicine: Pimobendan, Furosemide, and Benzapril to help. The main symptom I noticed was slight coughing when she was excited. We still do a slow walk everyday (about 2 miles) and she still enjoys it. No more fetch because that induces the coughing, even though she brings me the toys begging for fetch.

    The vet wants to do the echocardiogram, but just to rule out hypertension. That would be a visit to a new cardiologist vet. The problem is that the echo is $675 (including visit with a new vet), and her monthly medicine is now $160 a month. I’m pregnant with my second baby soon. It’s a little too much for my husband and I to afford all these tests and medicine. Do you have any suggestions? The Vet did not sound like the echo was urgent. But also I just can’t keep doing all these tests. I love my dog. Any suggestions? Thank you!

    Kim

    • janie
      Reply

      Hi Kim:

      I’m sorry to hear about Kinsey and it sounds like you have your hands full. Can you share a little more information with me please?

      What are you or have you been feeding Kinsey? Any supplements?

      Let me know and I’ll get back to you. Just give me a little time. I don’t work on Sundays. :)

      Janie

  • Heather
    Reply

    Hi, I have a male 10 yr, 8 mos old beagle. He is diagnosed w/a grade 2 heart murmur. ** He also have a fairly large lump in his throat. His Vet has taken a sample & looked under microscope to tell me the cells or fluid is non cancerous. This lump enlarges over time & the vet has withdrawn fluid via needle aspiration. My dog has trouble breathing & I’m convinced this large lump in throat is blocking his airway. The vet says surgery is not recommended due to age & lump is surrounded by vital organs ie: trachea etc. She says to consult a Vet hospital for surgical consideration. What is troubling is the fact that she is in disagreement that this lump is causing his very labored breathing. She thinks he is breathing rapidly due to being in vets office. I live w/him & know the large lump was discovered @ same time as heart murmur. He is not overweight. I feed hills wellness prescription diet only sold at vets office. It is hills reduced weight chicken formula…dog was overweight & this dog formula is only one that took 6.5 lbs permanently off my dog. An xray was taken of lungs ok. Vet says med for blood pressure can be used but I 1st have to have a very expensive scan of heart to determine what heart is functioning & identify problem. I do not have $$ for this test. Again I am convinced that large lump in dogs throat is the culprit. I give 2 benadryl in peanut butter to him each nite, sometimes during day. Dog is panting loudly, rapidly 24/7. Do you feel vet hospital could safely remove this lump, or is it too risky..thank you

    • janie
      Reply

      Hi Heather:

      I’m real sorry to hear about your old boy. I personally would try other things first before even attempting that route. I would try natural solutions including a better diet and HILLS PRESCRIPTION DIETS are disgusting. Give your dog a chance with natural solutions first. You’d be surprised at how well dogs respond to doing what nature intended.

      I will send you a private email as well.

      Janie


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