Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

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Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

Dog Heart Murmur Symptoms

Dog Heart Murmur SymptomsIn most homes, the dog is not just a pet but also a part of the family. As a member of the family, its health is very important to us. Whenever our furry friend is not feeling well, it can be a cause for major concern. One thing that is particularly distressing for a pet owner is to find your pet has an irregular heartbeat or heart murmur. Heart murmurs can be benign or an indicator of more serious issue.

Heart murmurs can occur for many reasons; the first is a birth defect where the puppy is born with a mitral valve problem. The mitral valve opens to allow blood into the left ventrical during constriction and closes at the end to prevent backflow. When backflow occurs blood backs up along the whole cardiovascular system but especially the in the veins that drain the lungs. This causes edema or fluid retention in the lungs and sometimes other parts of the body. Other common causes of heart murmurs include but are not limited to muscular degeneration, parasite infestation or a hole in the heart.

Diagnosing a heart murmur may seem simple as listening to your pet’s heart beat but some murmurs are so faint there are barely perceptible. Even with a stethoscope, they may be hard to hear. If your veterinarian thinks, your pet has a murmur he may order some further tests.

EKG will most likely be the first test administered. An electrocardiogram can be helpful to determine where in the heart a murmur is located and how severe it is. In addition to the EKG a veterinarian may do chest x-rays or an ultrasound to look at the condition of the heart. Veterinarians generally prefer to use the ultrasound technology as it gives a better overall picture of the heart and its condition.

Dog Heart Murmur SymptomsOnce the heart has been thoroughly examined and the underlying cause is determined, it is time to discuss treatment options. In the case of a murmur from birth the best course of action is to wait and see if the problem corrects itself, as happens quite often. Should the cause be physical in nature like a hole in the heart then surgery will often be helpful.

Whatever course of action decided upon the condition should be continually monitored as it can develop into congestive heart failure. The failure occurs when the necessary blood does not reach the muscles leading to fatigue. In addition, the build up of fluid around the lungs will cause coughing and breathing complications or even death. At this point, you are not really treating the failure as much as monitoring it. With heart failure, you will want to be sure your pet is not over exerted or over heated and high humidity and altitude should also be avoided. Top that off with a sensible low sodium diet and you will have many more years with your beloved pet.

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33 thoughts on “Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

  1. Becky

    My dog has this. He is coughing now, really bad, but actually only drooling, not really bringing up anything. He is on Lasix. He is retracting most of the time. Definitely has increased respirations. Besides giving Lasix and low salt, is there anything I can do to make him more comfortable. Should I consider euthanasia? How long can a dog go on like this? What are the end-stage signs, or is that what I am seeing now?

  2. Brigitte Smith


    Have you looked at the dog heart disease supplement that’s linked to in the above article? It can certainly assist with these types of problems.

    Click here –

    and here –

    As always, please note that I am not a vet and I have no veterinary training whatsoever. I speak only from my own very limited experiences as a dog owner like yourself. You should NOT use this supplement instead of the prescribed medication, since your dog is clearly quite sick. But you CAN use it in addition to the meds.


  3. Julia Truver

    This is a little bit lengthy
    My 11 year old small dog Missy started (coughing and trying to hack-up) so as we drive an 18 wheeler as soon as we got home I took her to her vet and he did scans, xrays and tests and diagnosed her with congestive heart failure, said with the diuretic pills and benazepril that she would probably last about 2 years (on average). We started her on the pills that night and she wet the bed so we got her doggy diapers and she seamed to not cough as much that few nights after the medications started but then she quit losing her bladder without knowing it and started holding her nose in the air to breath through her nose, and I could tell her lungs were filling and this was the reason she was doing this was to keep from drowning. It was 3am in the morn. and I called my vet. he said to give her another benazepril and this should help, It did not, she continued for 8 more hours, only the last half hour of her life she opened her mouth and started panting then, before we got to a vet she lost her bowels in my hand and I ran her into the vet as she was stiffening in my arms, they brought her back for about 15 min. and then she passed.

  4. Audrey Gail Emanuel

    My dog also has a hacking cough, I have taken her to the vet, and she has medication to be given every day, but her cough has gotten worser after a week of giving the medication, she is 13 yrs. old in human years, and a big part of the family. I also believe in prayer, is there anything else that you can think of. She has also gained weight and hasn’t been on a low salt diet. Any advice would be appreciated.
    Sincerly; I love my dog

  5. Cathy

    I had a 12 year old Shih Tzu.He was diagnosed 3/23/2008 with congestive heart failure.He was on lasix and beta blockers. I also got him hawthornberry syrup and was giving him it. He passed away on Sat. 3/21. He sounded like he was drowning could really hear the fluid. I was holding him and he took a breath and was gone. His quality of life was good in the yr. he made it through. I couldn’t consider euthanasia you will have to know by your dog. It rips your heart out.

  6. Jean Beggs

    My big beautiful Dalmation, Chicco has heart disease and is on lots of pills. He cant get walked and seems very sad all the time do you know how long dalmations last with this disease/ He is only 7 years old

  7. Janice Esposito

    Hi Becky,
    My dog was recently diagnosed with a grade 5 heart murmur. It was sudden onset probably caused from a virus or infection. Her heart was moderately enlarged with moderate regurgitation. She was extremely fatigued and coughing a lot. She is on enalapril and lasix. I also started her on holistic care after she was on the conventional meds for 6 weeks. I have always used holistic whenever possible.
    First I started with hawthorne berry. After a few weeks I added a heart Qi tonic which consists of about 11 different herbs. After she was on that a few weeks I added carnitine then taurine. She has improved tremendously with each addition of a supplement. Her energy level is back to normal. She is eating well again. Her murmur is undetectable without ultrasound. Her heart has decreased in size.
    The cardiologist is thrilled with her progress and said I should continue doing what I have been.
    I hope this is helpful.
    Take care,

  8. Joyce Campbell

    I have an old lady beagle. She is approx. 15 yrs. Angie has congestive heart failure (among other things). Vetmedin saved her life. Vetmedin helps to cut back on the coughing & helps the blood flow to the heart. She is also on digoxin, Enalapril, furosemide, spironolact.
    Angie is also on Deramaxx for pain for hind legs.
    Everyone, even the Vets are amazed that she is still going strong. Angie still has a good quality of life and we are hoping to keep her that way. I search the internet for the lowest cost drugs.

  9. jodelmi

    My adorable 8years old male poodle called Barney pass away 21 days ago and all my family is still missing him somuch. His doctor believe that he died of sadness,we lost our german shepperd just 19 days ago.Our beautifull barney was the most happy dog and we were so happy to have him. Wlove yourarticles thanks jo

  10. Laura

    Hi my Name is Laura last night Missy my 14 year old Shepard mix I have had since she was 3weeks old I noticed was very sick, so my husband brought her in the house, I got metacam out and gave her some, she drank a lot of water and then she threw up, when I went to bed I patted her head and figured she was just not feeling good, I knew she had congestive heart failure, but I guess with raising my 3 month old grandbaby I just don’t have the time I used to have to spend with her anyway when I got up she went out to the smoke room drank water was very weak, would not eat, and I noticed she was very swelled, when I left to run to the store she was lying on the patio in the sun I honestly thought she would start feeling better that day. I came home from the store and she had made it past the yard where her two 9 year old daughters I kept from her litter and the father a 15 year old chow. I found her dead in garage, this has been so hard for me to lose a member of my family. The only consolation I have from this is my vet told me that when a dog or anyone dies from Congestive Heart failure it is one of the more peaceful ways to die, God I hope he was being honest and not just trying to make me feel better. Laura

  11. pam

    What type of dog do you have? I have a 7 year old Pomeranian who is 9 pounds. I’d like to start her on the holistic remedies you mentioned. She was diagnosed with valvular disease, tracheal collapse and is on meds for a uti as well. How do I figure dosing amounts and how do you get your dog to take the pills? She is a crazy picky eater and her appetite is quite bad now on the benazepril.

    I’d really appreciate your help.

  12. suzan

    my heart and service dog henry A poodle has save my life many times or warned me of not breathing or my own congestive heart failure.
    he is 15 and has congestive heart failure.
    i live in the desert and it getting hot I have walked him twice a day since I found him at the rescue many years ago
    we have been to vet many times and I gotten the meds he needs off line with the vet permission.
    he doesn’t do well on walks any more if its over 80 degree I cant take him out so were up early and I have got him a fold up baby stroller and put him in that and stroll him around to his fave spots plus he gets out of the house and I get the exercise I need to keep up with my late stage COPD I will take him to the mall he has just started to eat a little again I have been tube feeding him with good dog food mixed with a puppy food to keep his weight up he doesn’t mind it so much he knows he wont be hungry after were done. he has been the reason I have been able to live on my own with the help of care givers . if he gets too hot I stand by the fan with him until he cooled off , also I put the fan on low in front of him when he can breath well so he can get some relief or al least feel like it. I know moving air makes me feel better when there I’m not breathing well and oxygen wont help.
    my main problem is money for his care. iwish I could give him better health care vets are so exspecive, my income is under $7000 yr. itss hard I go with out for his healthcare which is basic no scans or blood work , only meds. it makes me so sad..

    i’m so tired but I wouldn’t dream of not doing this considering my love for him and what he has done for me when I was having heart failure PS congestive heart failure hurts BAD so pain pills are a must!!!! do not let any one tell you different.

    at different points in my life since my illness started my friends and family forgot about me and he was my only friend.
    henry and suz

  13. suzan

    sorry I hit submit before I was done with this message so it jumbled up i hope you can read it okay.. suz

  14. suzan

    also no one has mention the throwing up when the lungs are full henry does this its awful and thick and hard for him to get out of this mouth. he will throw up ten times or more . suz

  15. Brigitte Smith

    Hi guys,

    Somehow I’ve missed this whole string of comments!

    I’m so sorry to Julie, Cathy, Jodelmi and Laura.

    Suzan, you must be devastated to see Henry go downhill like this, especially since he is so much more to you than simply a wonderful companion.

    Janice – GREAT comments – everyone else, PLEASE read them. This is exactly what i have said in other posts, and in my comment to Becky, above –

    If your dog has heart disease (of any type) there are supplements that DO work – of course, nothing in this life is guaranteed, but go to the site – and have a look at the great things it says, including many testimonials from dog owners who have used this supplement to great effect.

    If you’re already using prescription medications, it can’t hurt to add a supplement!

    If your dog is in early stages of heart disease and your vet has not yet prescribed medication, you could possibly avoid the need to get onto the meds with the supplement (I’m quotiing from information on that site).

    Go take a look – there’s nothing to lose in taking a look.


  16. Claire Potter


    I have a 12 1/2 yr old GSD who has congestive heart failure. He has been on Vetmedin for the past 10 days (I have another months supply) and he also has Metacam on a daily basis to help with his arthritis. He is also deaf, but hes my family!

    The problem is that I cannot afford to keep my dog on this drug as it is so expensive, even on the internet. Im finding it increasingly difficult to face the inevitable. I have been told by my vet that I am improving his life expectancy and making him “more comfortable” but that he won’t ever recover. It makes me feel so helpless. Has anyone else had their pets on any other heart medication (which is cheaper but still as effective) as Vetmedin. I would really appreciate your thoughts.

  17. Anita

    My dog Pebbles has congestive heart failure grade 6.5. She would lay in the bathroom with a fan on her all day she couldn’t even walk outside of the yard without getting sicker. I took her to several vets [5] they all just said she old its her time. Even her legs would bounce when her heart would beat with alot of love and research. Pebbles was 13 years when this started and is over 17 years goes for walks and plays some gets on and off the bed. I give hawthorne berry 3 times daily CQ10 2 or 3 times daily dandelion 2 times for loss of potassium from lasix for which they told me to give her 3 times daily but have her down to 1 daily. The vet also prescripted enalapril but I refused to give it to her because it could damage the heart more. Also started both my dogs on Zeoheal and Bionaid . I’m hoping to get her off lasix period because of the damage drugs can do.

  18. Debbie Tweed

    Hi Anita, A friend of mine has a lovely dog who has been diagnosed with a heart murmur. I wondered if you could tell me what dosage you give pebbles of the hawthorne berry and the dandelion. I really prefer the natural route as you like say drugs can cause so much damage elsewhere.

  19. Charlotte

    My 9 year old Shih-tzu, Aspen died from Congestive Heart Failure on August 16, 2009. He was diagnosed with it four years ago and I had him on medications the whole time. In January 2009, he took a turn for the worse and I begged the Vet to put him on Vetmedin. He wouldn’t do it at first but I threatened to go to a Vet that would. The Vetmedin was a miracle for the last 8 months of his life and if it had only been available sooner, I have no doubt that he could have survived this much longer. The eight months that the Vetmedin gave him, were wonderful and he had a great quality of life. Last week, he again took a turn for the worse and his quality of life was no longer there. He was shaking and his head was limp the night I took him to the Vet and she agreed that it was time to put him down. I can’t stop crying. Please keep your dog on Vetmedin. I have about 2 weeks supply that I can give you. Please contact me at I’ll be happy to send it to you. I will prayer for your dog to get better.

  20. sandra lowans

    My 9 yr. old schnauzer died this morning. He started coughing and gasping for air last night, rushed him to the emergency room at 3 a.m and the doctor said he would not make it, he was in CHF and he was at 80% breathing (supposed to be 98). He was on diuretics and the fluid built up anyways. He had a seizure in my arms when I said goodbye and finally put him out of his pain. I couldn’t stand to see him suffocating and fainting. He will always be loved and adored forever.

  21. sharon rawlinson

    my beloved king charles was diognoised 4 weeks ago with a grade 5 heart murmur we was devestated, she is nearly 10 the vet put her on 4 lots of tablets we took her back a week ago and they said she was worse but didnt increase tablets, just stopped them ,said take her home and you will knoe=w when the time to call it a day comes i am completely devestated i love her so much, i dont know wh at to do im afraid she will die like she drowning

  22. sylvia mellows

    i lost my dog last wednesday 30th september 2009.she started coughing 8 weeks ago and was told by the vet she had a very bad heart.shes been on vetmedin.fortekor and frusecare.the fluid still wouldnt go.she suddenly went down hill last tueday and was put 2 sleep on wednesday.i miss her so much it hurts.i have lots of all the tablets left if anyone would like them. my heart goes out 2 anyone in the same posituion i was.

  23. jeremy clifton


    where do you find these items? i want to talk to my vet about this before i go into it, but i do believe in these types of treatments and dont think that “modern day” medicine is all its cracked up to be. my dog has been on a medication for a week now and has gotten worse exponetially. She has a level 4 and last saturday the vet said that she couldnt hear any fluid in her lungs, but i cant thnk its long before i get into that part of it. She is our first and i would do anything for her, i just want to do the right thing. In reading some of the stuff in this i would rather put her down than for her to suffer, but i believe there has to be an answer out there and im hoping what worked for you may work for my baby girl too.

    Thank you,


  24. George Holtz

    We have adopted a 14 yr old Westie named Monty
    He has lots of heart problems & the vet has given us about 6 different meds. They seem to be helping. However, one of the most importent meds , Vetmedin, is one he HATES. He can smell it in anything we try to hide it in & then won’t eat that food again. We have tried just putting it in his mouth & he panics & fights so we are afraid we will give him the heart failier we are trying to prevent. Any sugestions PLEASE?

    Grorge & Pat

  25. Brigitte Smith


    I’m sure you’ve tried it, but I find that peanut butter is one of the best things for hiding meds, especially if your dog really likes peanut butter.


  26. Roseanne

    I have a 14 yr old poodle w congestive heart failure on lasix degoxin & so me enalapril

    I am having a hard time getting the meds into her…she is so smart is refusing most food items I try to hide it in

    She started throwing up today 3to4 times…but is still eating…any suggestions…she is not panting or having breathing problems she was coughing etc until her lasix was up to 2 per day about 2/3 wks ago…

  27. Dana May

    My 15 1/2 year old cocker spaniel, Dusty, passed away from congestive heart failure on December 1st. We found out he had heart disease when he was 10 1/2. He started coughing soon after his 14th birthday and we put him on Furosemide. We had to increase the Furosemide after a few months, as his coughing returned. The Sunday before Thanksgiving we noticed a bloody mucous coming out of Dusty’s nose. I thought it was drainage from a nasty wart on his ear. The morning of November 30th, Dusty sounded like a coffee maker making coffee while trying to breathe. He went outside, did his business, drank some water, and lay down for a nap. 7 hours later, I woke him to go outside. He seemed ok the rest of the night. I went to bed around midnight, checked on Dusty at 2 am. He was asleep on the cold floor that must have felt good to him. At 4 am, he sounded like a coffee maker again. I sat with him & cried and decided at 5:50, he would need to go to the vet to be put to sleep. In the meantime, he started taking breaths in 3’s through his mouth. He could not breathe and sounded like he was drowning due to the fluid in his lungs. He was my best friend, the best dog in the world, and I will never get over this hurt. This was the hardest decision I have ever made in my life. I feel for any and all of you going through this with your beloved friend. Good luck! Do what you can to make them comfortable in loved in their final days. has a lot of stuff to help make you feel better about your final decisions. I printed a poem called “The Last Battle”, signed it “Love, Dusty”, and hung it on my frig. I also printed Rainbow Bridge with a pic of Dus as little puppy and one in his older days & hung it on the frig. It is tough! I cry uncontrollably about twice a day.

  28. Cathy

    I’m so sorry to hear about your cocker spaniel. We have 2 cockers at home and have owned several others previously. Our Sonny is suffering from CHF and has been doing a lot of coughing recently. He has been on meds for over a year. I understand your love for the breed. They are so much like children. I hope you are feeling a little better. If you would consider adopting a cocker in the future, I know of a wonderful organization. The website is Best of luck to you.

  29. Pat

    My cocker will be 11 y.o. in 7 weeks – by accident the vet checked her heart & found a murmor, x-rays revealed an enlarged heart, fluid around the heart & lungs. She goes for the echocardigram tomorrow afternoon. She is a loveable mush and is the heart and soul of my life! I have been uncontrolably crying the past 24 hours since the diagnosis. I understand there is no cure for her “valve” problem, so when her time comes it does, but I am hoping she goes on her own without euthanasia….it would kill me to make that decision but I will not allow her to suffer one bit – she doesn’t deserve that, she’s been a total joy to me every day of her life. I am devasted, it’s like my life’s been turned upside down. She means everything to me,she’s that one in a million dog we have in our lifetime….a real soul connection…and a happy go lucky little girl that only wants to retrieve a ball all day or smile and give you kisses….I am frightened by the prospect of the future and what it holds for us – I am scared to face it – I’m alone, she’s all I have really…my kids are grown, I’m self employed with over 300 employees – you’d think I’d be stronger….this is the most difficult thing I’ve ever faced. My Millie is the true love of my life & my soul mate….pray for her, that she goes peacefully when it’s her time, and in the meantime has continually a good quality of life left. Your stories have meant a lot to me….thanks to everyone for sharing

  30. Carol

    Hi. Yesterday my dog was coughing and trying to hack something up. He was fine before that . I just had back surgery and have been recovering for it so the two of us spent a lot of time together. He was my walking buddy. Anyways OJ ( that was his name) was 10 and no health problems. I kept and eye on him through out the day and thought if he did not feel better the next day I would take him in. I had just check on him for he was in my daughters room 20 minutes went by and I went back he was under my daughters bed where he like to go and died. I will miss him very much and I am still in shock

  31. Mom

    I lost my pekingese female suddenly at 10 years old. She had no signs what so ever until the morning she died. I thought she had a respitory problem and later she crawled on my chest and looked me in the eye.. I knew she was in trouble. She died later that same day at the vet. That was Nov.3rd. Then Dec. 3rd her grandson went off and put his head in the corner and didn’t come out. He seemed to be panting. I took him to the vet right away. She listened to his heart and said it sounded good but didn’t like the congestion and wanted an x-ray. Congestive heart. Left side enlarged with fluid around the heart and the lungs were 70% full. He went on vetmedin, enapril and lasix and you would never know he has a problem..yet I know the outcome in the long run. He is 7 and I am thankful to have had them both in my life. It seems it is a heriditary problem.

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