Last Modified on May 22, 2014
Congestive Heart Failure Treatments in Dogs
In both human beings and animals, the heart sends blood throughout the body and back in a process known as circulation, providing oxygen and nutrients to body tissues and organs so they can function properly. Congestive heart failure in dogs is a weakened heart's inability to pump blood effectively to meet the demands of your dog's body.
Causes of canine congestive heart failure can be hereditary, heartworm – parasites that lodge in the heart and cause massive interference, chronic valvular disease – which causes the heart valves to contact poorly and may even “flap” and affect cardiac function, and dilated cardiomyopathy- which is an enlargement of the heart ventricles and a thinning of the heart walls.
Because blood is no longer circulating properly or efficiently, blood becomes backed up around organs and increases the pressure on veins and arteries. The heart is divided into two halves, left and right, each with two sections, atrium and ventricle. Depending on which part of the heart is weakened can affect the symptoms. Fluid can leak into the lungs and cause coughing, or pulmonary edema which involves coughing up bubbly red fluid; and is symptomatic of left ventricle failure. Failure of the right ventricle will cause fluid to leak into the abdomen, sometimes the legs and chest, giving a swollen belly appearance. Because all organs of the body are affected, symptoms of congestive heart failure are usually lethargy, weakness, difficulty breathing or shallow breaths, heart murmur, rapid irregular pulse, and fainting may occur from stress or exhaustion.
Congestive Heart Failure Treatment
Treatment for canine congestive heart failure typically involves low-salt diets and keeping your dog stress free. On this page you can discuss and read what strategies and home cures people are using to help heal their dogs' hearts naturally. Let us know what you try for your dog's heart.
Additional Pages of Interest:
Heart Murmur Remedies
[YEA] My 12 lb. Pekingnese recently went through some very frightening and life-threatening health issues related to his heart. He is doing terrific now, however I want to share a bit about what symptoms were manifesting and how we've managed to stop them.
In September of 2011, our sweet dog Mocha began having something akin to night screams/seizures. In the middle of the night, normally between 1 - 3am, he would wake from sleep with a horrific scream, then go immediately into a seizure. In all of our years with him he had never shown anything like this. His seizure would then last 7 -8 minutes. It was a terrible scene to witness and watch him endure. It happened again a month later, and as we began the process of veterinary visits, tests, etc. and were coming up with no answers. The veterinarian said these were not epileptic seizures, but he did not know what they were or where they were coming from. From his model of medicine he only had Phenobarbital to offer as a means to get control of the seizures. Although we took the advice at the time, my family and I all felt this was still an undiagnosed condition and the Pheno would at best offer us some time to get things figured out. We had to bring these episodes to a halt as soon as possible as each episode seemed to erode his overall health. We were watching our beloved pup drift away from us with each episode.
As we began our research, I started online with researching 'dog screams'. Although the veterinarian said perhaps this was a dream, or anxiety, he didn't feel the dog was in pain at the time of his episodes. We wholeheartedly disagreed. Although Mocha may not have felt pain during the actual seizure, the scream occurred just before and was absolutely horrifying. It was CLEAR that he was in wrenching pain before falling into a seizure. I was amazed to find online assorted threads of pet owner conversations on the topic of dog screams... Most of which indeed were followed by seizure activity, involuntary defecation, etc. In almost each case, the dogs in question were small dog breeds, just like Mocha. Also in each case, the owner knew the dog had a diagnosed heart murmur, as we did with Mocha.
Following this thread, I started to research heart remedies for dogs. Some were specific to murmurs, others were more generalized and in each small dog case, there was also an issue with keeping blood sugar balanced. We began putting together a small grouping of supplements to put Mocha on based on the information we were finding online.
At the same time that we were doing this research, we were giving Mocha the Phenobarbital. He had a terrible time adapting to it. Aside from being basically unconscious 90 minutes after the dose for approximately 9 hours, he was starting to urinate excessively and also to pant exactly 90 minutes after each dose. Sometimes the panting was excessive and frightening. We brought all of these topics up to the veterinarian who said that small dogs tend to adapt the least to this medication, and that whatever adaptation was going to happen would happen within the first two weeks. We were a month into it at this point and becoming very concerned. In addition, it was not stopping entirely his concerning episodes. We had his blood tested to see if he was at 'therapeutic levels' of the Phenobarbital and he was not. The veterinarian wanted us to go up in dose, but our instincts told us 'no'. This dog was losing quality of life on the dose he was already on, and we felt certain that increasing his dose would decrease his life expectancy and quality of remaining life. We decided at that point to trust our instincts and begin tending specifically to his heart.
I am happy to report that since we began adding in his natural heart and blood sugar supports, there have been no screaming/seizure episodes (6 weeks now). This is SIGNIFICANT, as Mocha had gotten to the point where he was screaming/seizing several times per day before beginning his holistic treatment. We have also decreased his Phenobarbital very slowly and safely and this, also, has improved his overall health and vitality. At this point we know we are substantially below 'therapeutic levels' and that the medication is doing next to nothing for him. We are taking him off slowly simply to be safe and gentle with is system. He should be off it entirely over the next week.
I am sharing this information because I know there are others out there who may have dogs with heart murmurs, small dogs, screaming/seizure dogs and the like. I was amazed at how frequent this problem presents based on what I found online, and yet could find NONE of this information via veterinarians or veterinary sites. It all came from pet owners who have had to research and address the issues themselves based on what others were doing. Thank goodness for sites like this one... I truly have no idea what Mocha's future would have been without them.
As for what supplements we have found which address his issues:
Hearty Heart (liquid drops) from Pet Wellbeing: Dosage is determined by pet's weight. This product has been developed by holistic veterinarians and veterinary herbalists. It is absolutely fantastic and useful for dogs and cats. Our 14 year-old cat has Cardiomyopathy and this has helped him so very much as well. Can't recommend it highly enough.
L-Carnitine (liquid) from Pet's Choice Pharmaceuticals: An essential amino acid designed to assist both the heart and blood sugar levels. Very helpful in healing the heart after functional disturbances and preventing future problems. Especially recommended for small breeds. Dosage determined by pet's weight.
FortiFlora (powder) from Purina Veterinary Diets: Probiotic supplement with beneficial strains of good bacteria designed to balance the digestive system and strengthen immunity. Excellent for blood sugar issues, allergies, skin and coat issues, etc. Mocha has been on this for years, as he has a long history of highly reactive/allergic skin, itching, blood sugar issues, etc. As a 12 lb dog, we give Mocha half a packet twice per day with his meals.
Magnesium mixed with Vitamin C: Both of these nutrients are excellent for the heart and safe for dogs. We buy tablets and then powder them together in our mortar and pestle. This allows us to sprinkle them onto his food. Again because Mocha is small, he only get 2 pinches of this mixture once per day. The ratio of his Magnesium to Vitamin C is 2:1. The dose, ratio, form of the nutrient may be specific dog to dog but there is helpful information online about dosing them.
Ubiqinone (CoQ10): An important antioxidant which helps with energy and heart function. It is potent so again, read up on dosage for your pet or consult with a holistic veterinarian. For Mocha, he only takes 1 drop from a 30mg capsule. Any more than that is too much, but we notice a difference when he doesn't have it at all.
D-Ribose: This is a metabolic sugar which is found within the body, but can also be supplemented. It is excellent for the heart, for recovery of the heart and for energy production... Of of which Mocha needed. Because of his small size he only takes 200 - 300 mg day. This product can be found in most healthfood stores.
So there you are. I hope you find this information helpful if you are searching for help for your dog. Most important lessons we have learned from the experince are 1) trust your instincts and 2) do your homework. If something doesn't sound right to you in terms of diagnosis, treatment, etc. , or if you simply feel you have not gotten sufficient answers, trust your instincts. There is an abundance of information available on the web today and tho, yes, sometimes that can be misleading, when you read over and over from owners about what works/doesn't work, TRUST it. In our case we were not able to get any answers from the veterinary community (in person or online) and ALL of Mocha's help came from dog owners like you. And, do your homework... Research what is going on with your pet, what others are doing for the same issues, safe dosage amounts, etc. Take charge of what is going on, have confidence in yourself and your instincts and take one step at a time. Don't wait passively for answers and don't continue with anything that just feels wrong or is causing clear harm... Even if that information comes from the medical community. They, like us, are all still learning but sometimes the life of a patient (human or animal) can't wait and you must strike out on your own. Work closely with professionals when and how you can, but don't linger with anyone who isn't providing help or cooperating with your desire to work holistically. Put your pet and his/her life first.
Good luck to you and I hope some little puppy dog and his family out there can be helped just like we have been. We are tremendously grateful to have been steered by others to the help Mocha needed and are enjoying seeing our sweet pup return to us in every way.
Deborah, Mocha and family....