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 67 comments
  • Kathryn

    I am struggling with my decision to put my 13.5 year old pug to rest. He had an enlarged heart, was dealing with incontinence due to neuro and mobility issues, and what they thought was pneumonia but was never 100% sure without invasive testing. He had been on vetmed, enalapril, lasix -the enalapril helped stabilize him for a few years but after his 13th birthday things started to decline. We had been monitoring his heart with a cardiologist for a while and once the lasix was introduced I feel like he went downhill and caused the incontinence. Looking back the last er trip, he was unable to breathe out of oxygen. We waited another 24 hours but he was still struggling. I wish we gave it a few more days. He always seemed to make it through (he had 2 previous er trips). After reading other comments, I see some dogs were prescribed bronchodilators to help with breathing. The cardiologist never suggested that. We also could of offered him supplemental oxygen at home. I just feel like i didn’t prepare or plan properly and the decision felt quick. Now I feel like I gave up on my sweet dog. What if he would of made it out of oxygen? What if we tried holistic approaches to combat his heart and incontinence issues? I feel so sad now. And looking back, not fully grasping his heart issues, not asking the right questions, I felt like we were always able to fix it somehow so I went about our days not realizing how little time we had left together. I remember specifically asking if he was in CHF many times during the many cardio appointments and the vet saying we weren’t quite there yet. They never detected any fluid in lungs or abdomen. Please, any advice or personal insight would be greatly appreciated. I feel so hopeless these days. I feel like i should of got a second opinion. Afterwards, I emailed his cardiologist with all the same concerns as above and she said there is no doubt we made the right decision at right time.
    But somehow, I still don’t feel comforted with my decision and the timing. Did I give up on my sweet little guy?

    • janie

      Hi Kathryn:

      I’m so sorry to read your story and hear about the loss of your little guy. Through the years, I’ve had to make these decisions before and the pain was truly unbearable at times. I completely understand how you feel and why you feel that way. The one thing that gets lost in our grief, is how much we did for our loved ones, instead as humans, we focus on that feeling of not doing enough.

      You did the very best you could Kathryn. At the time, you didn’t really know about the other alternatives. No one really suggested it to you. You did do the best thing for your little guy with the resources you had available to you at the time. Don’t beat yourself up. The only way I ever get thru this, is to BELIEVE that I WILL see them again.

      So please Kathryn, know that “you did NOT give up on your sweet little guy”. You simply didn’t know.

      My prayers are with you.


  • Mandy Mackie

    I lost my beloved dog Jackson today we had to have him out to sleep due to his haert failing he was 10 his breathing was laboured he didn’t want to exercise and the his touge was white he gave us so much love and taught me how to love ,how do I feel this void it’s herendous

    • janie

      Hi Mandy:

      I’m so very, very sorry to hear about your loss. We know that feeling of pain all too well.

      Surround yourself with only those that understand how much Jackson meant to you. Avoid those that think grieving over your beloved Jackson is silly. Allow yourself time to grieve. This is so important Mandy. Remember what he taught you and the lessons you learned from your boy.

      We’ll be thinking of you.


  • Marie

    My Lhasa Benni fainted at my feet – was diagnosed with an enlarged heart& murmur-he is 10yrs old and on Cardisure-Vetmedin & water tablet- i am distraught at the thought of losing him.

    • janie

      Hi Marie:

      I’m so sorry to hear about your little boy. Are you doing anything else with regards to food and supplements for his heart?


    • isabel

      Hi Marie: I am so sorry about Llasa Benni. My mini maltese dog had an enlarged heart and heart murmer. She was on lasix, vetmedin, and spirolactonome (can only get in human pharmacy). The heart dr told me 12 years ago she only had a year to live. I gave her fish oil supplements for her heart, a tiny bit of resveratrol, kidney and heart vitamins from only natural pet. I am pretty sure that these have helped her live for years. Unfortunately her kidneys gave out and she passed away in January but she lived a full life.

  • Joyce riggs

    I have a 14 year old female lab. She is in CHF and on medication. Now loosing her hair. When is it considered not a good quality of life for my dog. She eats, sleeps drinks tons of water, poops and pants all the time. I do not want to lose her, but is this the kind of life she deserves?

    • janie

      Oh Joyce, I’m so sorry to hear abut your old girl. I also sorry it took me so long to respond. Not enough hours in the day. 🙂

      Typically it’s believed that when your dog stops eating, it’s time. Can I ask what you’re doing for her CHF?


  • isabel chung

    I had a Mini Maltese, Kiki for 12 years, but she was 18 when she passed second week of January 2017 (My sister had her but couldn’t take care of her, so I took her). Unfortunately this breed has bad teeth. She eventually ended up with most of her teeth take away. She only had 4 teeth left. 10 years ago, a vet told me to take her to a heart doctor in oradell, nj. The heart doctor said she had an enlarged heart because of her teeth also because the breed tends to get this disease. Her heart valves were weak and were opening and closing irregularly. I asked the doctor, what’s the most she would live? she said 1 year. The only good advice she gave me was she would live up until her kidneys gave out. She lived 12 years more after that. I gave her heart, kidney vitamins from only natural, also fish oil which is good for the heart. Fortunately I met a vet that gave me better medicine than enalapril, vetmedim. I think that definitely helped her. The 4 months before she passed, she wasn;t feeling so great. I feel so bad because I could’t give her attention because I was a bit depressed. I had always cut her hair because she was so feisty. her hair was such a mop. It was time for her teeth cleaning. As usual, I declined the blood test but I probably should not have done that. Also, I wanted her hair to be cut but the only way was to have it cut while she was under anesthesia. That is the only mistake I made was having her hair cut while she was under anesthesia. She was too old and she could not handle the extra anesthesia. She didn;t eat or urinate after. A couple days later, her kidneys gave out and she passed away. If you have an older pet with heart disease, always have your pet get a blood test and do not put your pet under extra anesthesia like I did. My vet should have told me not to have her hair cut. I am glad she is not suffering anymore.

    • isabel chung

      I forgot to mention her diet. I boiled her chicken fed her wellness senior dog food at first then switched to royal canine kidney support which has to be called in by your vet.

    • janie

      Hi Isabel

      I’m so sorry for the loss of Kiki. You must have done a great job with your old girl since she lived way beyond what that vet predicted. It’s hard when they cross the rainbow bridge, I know the feeling all too well.

      Just like human parents, pet parents also question their actions and the mistakes they made and how they wish they would have done more.

      Be gentle on yourself Isabel and remember that Kiki would want you to. Remember too that you’ll see her on the other side. 🙂


      • isabel chung

        Hi Janie-

        Thank you so much for your comment! I haven’t gotten back to this website until now. Yes, I know I will see her again. I have had dreams about her also. Sorry for your loss too. If you don’t mind, can you tell me about your pet that passed away?

  • Amy Beason

    while it breaks my heart to read everyone’s stories, they are so helpful. our little guy (3.5 b chihuahua named puggzie, almost 11 years old) was diagnosed with CHF three months ago. our vet said he was pretty much a hospice case, but he has so far surprised us and has come through two rough late night er trips. oddly enough, his appetite has increased a TON since starting all of the meds (he is on lasix, enalapril, vetmedin, as well as keppra for seizures) he has put on almost a pound. has anyone else had this experience? his breathing rate goes up and down, and he is much lazier than he once was, but he seems happy. i am holding on to his appetite as a sign that it is not yet time to let him go. these little guys steal our hearts.

    • janie

      Hi Amy:

      I’m sorry to hear about little Puggzie. I can’t offer any experience in this area, but I wanted to say that I hope he improves and is with you for many, many more years.


  • Rila Girdner

    My 13year old was diagnosed with a mild heart condition and given two medications , one a diuretic. She lost her appetite and became lethargic. When we returned to the Vet he told us to stop the medication and gave us little hope for her recovery. He continued to treat her with fluid in fusions and antibiotics. We brought her home and continued with the treatment for 3 days, adding frequent surenges of electrolytes. On The 4th day at a family dinner she began begging for some KFC chicken. Now, 4days later she is still eating lean chicken, her hip and joint greenies and raw carrots, but refusing everything else. Sometimes she seems to shake when she sleeps. She now seems more alert and more active, responding eagerly to friends and family members. Do you have recommendations for continued treatment for her heart problems?

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