Canine Congestive Heart Failure Stages of Dying: Everything You Need to Know

For a dog owner, nothing is more heartbreaking than knowing that your beloved fur baby is suffering from an incurable condition. Not only do we know that they’re in pain, but they can’t communicate and tell us when they first experienced the symptoms. That’s truly heartbreaking.

One such condition is canine congestive heart failure. Congestive heart failure or CHF can happen to any dog – regardless of breed, gender, and age. The worst part about it is that symptoms usually appear when it’s already in the later stages. Unfortunately, treatment won’t be as effective anymore.

That’s why we decided to write this article. Here, we will walk you through CHF – its causes, symptoms, and canine congestive heart failure stages of dying.

Canine Congestive Heart Failure Stages of Dying

What is Canine Congestive Heart Failure: Causes and Diagnosis

Canine Congestive Heart Failure is a condition wherein the heart can no longer pump enough blood that the body needs. As a result, your dog will become tired easily, start losing appetite, and other serious complications.

There are different causes for CHF. But, two of the most common reasons are mitral valve insufficiency and dilated cardiomyopathy.

Mitral valve insufficiency or MVI accounts for around 80% of CHF cases. This condition results from a worn-out mitral valve that starts leaking. Since the mitral valve is between the left atrium and ventricle, MVI often results in left-sided CHF. But if undetected and untreated for a long time, it could affect the whole heart.

On the other hand, dilated cardiomyopathy refers to a disease that causes poor pumping and weaker performance of the heart muscle. If left untreated, this disease can cause heart enlargement and, eventually, canine congestive heart failure.

Fortunately, modern science has made it possible to detect CHF even when your dog shows no sign of external symptoms. Veterinary experts run a series to spot these symptoms. Among the tests include listening for heart murmurs, getting chest x-rays, performing an electrocardiogram, and getting an echocardiogram or ultrasound. All of these will help detect irregular heart activity so treatment can start as soon as possible.

Canine Congestive Heart Failure Stages of Dying

Now that you have a deeper understanding of CHF, let’s now proceed to the heart of this article: discussing the canine congestive heart failure stages of dying. The American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine classified CHF into four stages, which we will discuss below.

Stage A

This is the first stage, and it refers to a dog coming from a breed that’s prone to develop CHF and similar heart conditions. Among the dog breeds known to develop CHF are large breeds such as Great Danes and Saint Bernards, to name a few.

At this stage, the dog is merely suspected because of his breed’s association with the disease. So, make sure to take him for regular check-ups with the vet to detect possible CHF at its onset.

Stage B

During the second stage, the vet detects heart murmurs despite an absence of physical changes in the dog’s heart. At this stage, your dog won’t show any symptoms, so they must be detected during this time.

Since there are no signs of CHF at this stage, all you can do is regularly monitor your dog for new symptoms. You should also make sure that he is well taken care of, eating hearty and healthy meals, and going to his regular vet appointments. No medication is required at this stage.

Stage C

Once symptoms of CHF start to show, then your dog is already in Stage C. At this stage, your dog will start to grow tired easily, while others tend to start coughing. Fortunately, at this stage, your dog will still be responsive to treatment that will help prolong his life.

To address these symptoms, your vet would have to prescribe medications for your dog. These medications will help ease these symptoms, so your pet won’t feel too stressed about what’s going on with his body. Unfortunately, your dog has to take the medicine for the rest of his life, because they’re not exactly a cure – just a treatment to help ease the symptoms.

The vet might also recommend getting your dog on a diet. Because of his condition, he has to avoid certain food that could further aggravate his condition and accelerate the development of CHF.

Also, your dog may have to go through tests frequently to observe any progress with his condition. Vets would even run extra tests to detect possible complications with other organs.

Stage D

The final stage, otherwise known as Stage D, takes place when the dog with confirmed CHF becomes unresponsive to any treatment. This is the most heartbreaking stage of all because you know that his days are truly numbered.

Among the symptoms in this End-Stage are lethargy, frequent coughing, loss of appetite, and difficulty breathing. This can be painful to watch, especially since you know that your beloved canine buddy is suffering terribly.

During this stage, treating the symptoms will be of no effect. While some experts would suggest having your dog treated by cardiology experts, this is not always feasible. Besides, the advanced treatment and therapy might be too much for your dog’s weak body to take.

Unfortunately, most experts agree that when it’s already too much for your dog to suffer, the best thing to do is to put him to sleep. This is a very difficult decision to make, but if you truly love your dog, you know in your heart that there’s no other way to end his suffering.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know the different canine congestive heart failure stages of dying, we hope that you can use this knowledge to detect and treat the condition early on.

Always remember that CHF is caused by diseases or conditions that cause irregular heart activities. If you can, make sure to feed your dog with heart-healthy food and give him just enough exercise to keep him healthy. While these tips are not sure ways to avoid CHF entirely – especially for breeds prone to the condition – there’s a good chance that these can prevent it.

Once a dog is diagnosed with CHF, all we can do is hope that the treatments extend his life for a few more years. During this time, make sure that he gets all the love he deserves to make his limited time worthwhile.

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