Heart Failure in Dogs: Stages, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

heart failure in dogs

Having a pet dog is a blessing for you because your pet will be there for you, whether you are in distress or joy. So, you must ensure that your dog’s health is in the right order. Taking care of your pet is very important to ensure proper health. Now, one of the most important and vulnerable organs of your dog’s body is the heart. The heart failure in dogs is one of the prevalent causes for the pets of so many people meeting catastrophic consequences. 

Because of this, you have to be aware of this gruesome disease that your dog could face if you don’t take care of your dog. You need to know the symptoms to take early actions. You will also need to understand the causes and the treatment measures of this disease. But, more importantly, you have to be aware of the stages through which a dog might get heart failure. So, in this article, let’s have a discussion in detail about the dog’s heart failure. 

Stage of Heart Failure in Dogs

Heart failure in dogs occurs primarily in 4 stages. These are A, B, C, and D. The stages A and B are linked with various heart diseases. But, C and D are the two stages that can cause congestive heart failure in dogs. If you have a pet dog, then you have to be aware of these stages. Here is a chart below explaining all these four stages of heart failure;


What Happens


A dog that is genetically prone to heart diseases or has a disease that will lead the dog to the heart problem. It is the safest stage of heart failure because the heart will not have a great change in functioning if the condition stays the same.


In this stage, during the medical examination of the heart, the veterinary doctor will only get heart murmurs. There will be no change in the structure of the heart of the dog, and it will also show no signs and symptoms for congestive heart failure.


In this stage, the dog will be showing the signs and symptoms of congestive heart failure. Also, there will be a possibility that the dog might be struggling with congestive heart failure already.


In this stage, the dog will have congestive heart failure, and the veterinary doctor will confirm that as well. But, the worst part of this stage is the dog will be not responding to any of the treatments whatsoever.

The Treatment of Congestive Heart Failure of Dogs in Stages

If your dog is giving you the signs and symptoms of having congestive heart failure, then you should take your dog to the veterinary doctor straight away. You have to avoid waiting until the last stages of heart failure in dogs, as it will take your dog towards a catastrophic situation. Early treatment may increase the chances of survival for your dog. A doctor will follow the treatment measure of congestive heart failure according to each stage as well. Here is a chart that will inform you about the treatment measure the doctor will take according to each stage: 


Treatment Measure


In this stage, the dog will not require any treatment as such. However, the regular check of the heart for your dog is essential, and a veterinary doctor should do it. The check-up will also include various tests such as ultrasound and x-rays to determine the condition of the heart of the dog.


In this stage, the dog will have a change in the structure of the heart. But still, the dog will not be showing any signs or symptoms of heart failure. So, the dog needs to have frequent check-ups and tests, including ultrasounds and x-ray. However, some dogs may also start to show symptoms of congestive heart failure, and they should be checked-up immediately because those dogs will be entering the stage C of the congestive heart failure.


In this stage, the signs of congestive heart failure will be quite evident, and their willingness or the ability to do physical exercise will go down. A dog with congestive heart failure coughing more is also quite evident at this stage. Now, the veterinary doctor will also start medications for the dog which the dog will have to take for the rest of the life. Also, the doctor may give the dog a diet to keep the heart-healthy.


In the final stages of congestive heart failure in dogs, the medication will be given periodically to the dog. But unfortunately, the dog will not be responding to the treatment. So, the dog will require advanced medical therapy for the treatment. The best thing to do in this stage is to take the dog to a cardiologist who will provide the right treatment for the dog.

Symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure of Dogs

You should be vigilant about the signs and symptoms the dog will show for the congestive heart failure. Otherwise, it will be difficult for your dog to survive. Knowing the early signs of congestive heart failure in dogs will help you to take your dog to the doctor, who will provide you with the right treatment. So, here are the signs and symptoms which you should be aware of:

  • Excessive coughing even while exercising and bedtime
  • Breathing problem during exercising and sleeping
  • Feeling lazy all the time
  • Struggling to settle down before sleep
  • Breathing per minute increases rapidly
  • The belly is getting swollen due to the rise in fluid
  • The flow of the blood is getting blocked resulting in fainting
  • Poor oxygen flow leading to the change in color of the gum and tongue
  • Loss of weight due to the loss of healthy fat
  • Shortness in breathing is also one of the signs a dog is dying from congestive heart failure

Diagnosis of Congestive Heart Failure of Dogs

The veterinary doctor will want to find out the signs and symptoms that you have checked so far in the dog. The doctor will also need to be informative about the eating habit and the medications your dog take. If you are wondering how long can a dog live with heart failure, then you should know that it will depend on the diagnosis of the dog. Here us how the doctor will diagnose congestive heart failure in the dog. 

Urine and Blood Test

The doctor will do urine and blood test for the dog to see whether the dog is having any other medical problem or not. 


This test will be done to examine the internal organs of your dog’s body.


In this test, electrical signals will be received from the dog’s heart to indicate the pace with which it is beating. 


With ultrasound, the doctor will find out about the shape, size, and movement of the dog’s heart.

Holter Monitor

This monition will be attached to the heart of the dog for 24 to 48 hours to check the heart rate and rhythms of the dog. 

Heartworm Test

A blood test will be done solely to check for the heartworm in your dog’s blood samples. 

What Causes Heart Failure in Dogs

The heart failure of dogs has multiple reasons behind it. Some of these causes are congenital, which means the dog was born with these diseases. Some of those causes include:

Subaortic stenosis

In this condition, the muscles of the heart of your dog become unusually thick. It is a very, very rare disease to have.

Tetralogy of Fallot

One of the rarest heart diseases in which four heart conditions are present at the time of birth. 

Ventricular Septal Defect

It is a rare heart disease that happens due to the unusual connection among the lower chambers (ventricles) of the heart.

Persistent Ductus Arteriosis 

This problem could occur in your dog due to the problem in the development of the dog’s heart. 

Treatment of Heart Failure in Dogs

Here are some of the treatment measures your veterinary doctor go for:


The doctor will give medications that will enable the heart to work in a better way and also improve the condition of irregular heartbeats. 

Reduce Fluid Build-Up

The doctor will prescribe certain medications that will also help in slowing down the fluid accumulation in the lungs. Also, your dog will have to go on a low-salt diet to reduce fluid build-up.


The doctor may perform surgery to amend a torn valve in the heart or insert a pacemaker.

Limited Physical Activity

The weight of your dog needs to be appropriately managed at this time. For that, the doctor will advise for physical exercise or activity for the dog in a limited way. 

What Can You Expect

You have to take your dog to a veterinary doctor for a regular check-up. You just cannot stop the treatment for your dog. Always look for the signs and symptoms because if you fail to notice it, then the life of your dog could be shorter. However, if you detect the heart problem in your dog early and take care of the dog properly, then your dog can have a normal and comfortable life.