Heart Failure in Dogs

Heart failure is a serious but manageable condition. It takes consistent care and good management, but with the right approach your dog can have a long, happy life. Heart failure is sometimes called congestive heart failure or CHF. But don’t let the word “congestive” confuse you: it’s actually not about congestion in the lungs at all.

What is heart failure?

Heart failure is a condition in which the heart is unable to pump blood effectively. It can be caused by heart disease, hypertension or other conditions. To diagnose it, your vet will perform an echocardiogram and run tests on your dog’s blood pressure.

Treatment varies depending on the cause of heart failure, but most cases require medication to support the heart until it heals. If left untreated, this condition can lead to serious complications such as kidney damage and even death.

What are the symptoms of heart failure?

The most common symptoms of heart failure in dogs are:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Tiring easily when exercising or doing normal activities (like walking)
  • Increased thirst and appetite (polydipsia, polyuria).
  • Increased urination. There is often a large amount of urine produced after exercise or exertion, even if the dog has been drinking water throughout the day. The increase in urination can also be seen when a dog that usually drinks very little water suddenly begins to drink more. This can be due to fluid retention due to congestive heart failure. As a result, the kidneys produce more urine as they try to remove excess fluid from the body and balance things out again naturally (to maintain homeostasis).

How is heart failure diagnosed?

The most common way to diagnose heart disease in dogs is through a physical examination and blood test. A veterinarian will listen to your dog’s heart, take his temperature and feel his abdomen for any swelling. They’ll also look at the color of the gums and tongue and assess the dog’s overall energy level.

The veterinarian may also recommend X-rays or an echocardiogram (an ultrasound of the heart) if they suspect that your dog has valvular disease or cardiomyopathy.

How is heart failure treated?

Your veterinarian will likely recommend a combination of medications, diet, exercise and lifestyle changes to treat heart failure in dogs. Medications include drugs to treat the underlying cause of your dog’s heart failure and drugs that help stabilize the heart muscle.

Can a dog with heart failure be cured?

Yes, but not always. Heart failure is a chronic condition and cannot be cured. However, it can be managed with medications and lifestyle changes. The prognosis depends on the severity of the condition and how long you’ve had your dog since they were diagnosed with this disease. If they were recently diagnosed, then their prognosis is better than if they’d been living with heart failure for years before being diagnosed.


Heart failure is a serious condition, but it’s definitely manageable. With consistent care and good communication with your dog’s vet, you can give your pup a long, happy life. Just remember to be on the lookout for symptoms (like lethargy or coughing), because early diagnosis is key when it comes to any condition. Then, once treatment has begun, keep close track of how your dog responds to the medications—if something seems off at all, or if their symptoms don’t improve, call your vet immediately!