When to Put a Dog Down With Congestive Heart Failure?

Heart failure can affect dogs in many different ways and in varying degrees of severity. No matter how hard it is to say goodbye, you must always put your dog’s quality of life first. So, when is the right time to euthanize a dog with heart failure?

dog congestive heart failure when to put down

My dog has congestive heart failure when to put down

If your dog is suffering chronic symptoms of heart failure and their quality of life is low, then it may be time to euthanize your dog. Choosing the right time to put a dog down can be overwhelming, but your veterinarian can guide you through the process.

If your dog is in the late stages of congestive heart failure, you’ll notice a gradual decline in his quality of life. He may become less active, and he will have difficulty breathing. The symptoms of end-stage congestive heart failure include dyspnea, chronic cough or wheezing, edema, nausea or lack of appetite, a high heart rate, and confusion.

What are the end stages of canine heart failure?

Symptoms of congestive heart failure include:

  • Weakness during physical exertion, especially where the dog may previously have been fit and active
  • Gum changing from pink to greyish-blue, suggesting poor blood circulation
  • Fainting or collapse
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal swelling caused by a build-up of blood in the stomach
  • Chronic cough, more frequent during the night or after getting up from a lying or sitting position
  • Obvious discomfort in the chest
  • Breathing difficulties

How long can dogs live with congestive heart failure?

The average life expectancy of a dog with CHF is about a year. However, if a dog responds well to treatment and you do not see any deterioration in their condition after a few months of therapy, the prognosis is much better.

How can I make my dog comfortable with CHF?

Your vet may recommend that you place your dog on a commercial or prescription low-salt diet. This will let him eat and drink all he wants, but it will provide lower levels of sodium and fluid in his body and help decrease the fluid build-up associated with CHF.

Limited activity or exercise: You can make sure your dog is getting enough exercise while limiting the stress on his heart by walking him for short distances and only on nonstrenuous surfaces like grass; this will allow him to get plenty of movement without putting too much strain on his body. You should also monitor his breathing closely during any physical activity and stop if you feel he’s getting too winded or tired.

What should dogs with heart failure eat?

Feeding your dog a prescription diet for heart failure can improve the quality of life and extend it.

Dogs with heart failure should eat a diet that combines controlled levels of sodium, phosphorus, potassium and calories to help reduce fluid retention and relieve symptoms. These diets can be very effective in slowing down the progression of heart disease. Some balanced diets include Royal Canin® Veterinary Diet Canine Cardiac, Rayne Clinical Nutrition™ Restrict-CKD™, or Hill’s® Prescription Diet® h/d®.

The primary objective of feeding a dog with heart failure is to minimize the amount of sodium and water retained in the body. This minimizes the stress on the failing heart by reducing fluid overload that will require more work from the heart to pump blood throughout the body. The goal is to maintain a good quality of life for your dog by controlling her symptoms and prolonging her life.

The diet should be designed based on your dog’s weight and other nutritional needs, as well as her stage of heart failure. A veterinarian should assess your dog’s condition to determine the type of diet that will provide her with optimal nutrition while helping relieve her symptoms. Your veterinarian may recommend adding fiber to help slow down digestion and prevent rapid stomach emptying, which helps to control bloat. Fiber also helps control diarrhea caused by other medications used to treat heart disease.

What is the most common cause of canine heart disease?

There are many conditions of the body that may bring about heart failure, some more common than you might think. This is why there are so many possible symptoms that a dog with heart failure may experience.

Heartworm

Treating heartworm is vital to prevent your dog from developing heart failure. Heartworm is a disease spread by mosquitoes. They carry heartworm larvae which are transmitted to the dog when the mosquito bites. The larvae migrate through the dog’s body towards the heart, where they continue to grow. Heartworms can reach lengths up to 12 inches, quickly overwhelming the heart and blocking the blood vessels. Left untreated, heartworm is fatal.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy

This condition causes the walls of the left ventricle in the heart to weaken over time. The left ventricle is the chamber with the thickest walls as it pumps blood out of the heart and around the body. Due to this weakness, the heart cannot pump blood effectively.

Endocarditis

This is an infection of the heart valve caused by bacteria in the bloodstream. The bacteria may come from an infection, abscess or skin wound in another part of the body. Large breeds and older dogs are more susceptible to this condition, particularly Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Labradors, and Golden Retrievers. It is also more commonly seen in males.

Financial assistance for a dog with congestive heart failure

If your dog has congestive heart failure, you likely will incur significant veterinary bills during his lifetime. Here are four resources that may be able to help you financially with your dog’s care:

Payment plans

Congestive heart failure often requires expensive medications and long-term treatment. If you’re having trouble paying your vet bills, don’t be afraid to ask if they offer payment plans.

Local animal shelter or rescue group

Check with your local animal shelter or rescue group to see if they can offer any assistance. Many shelters and rescue groups have limited funds set aside for people who need a little help in paying for veterinary bills.

RedRover Relief

RedRover Relief, a program of the RedRover organization, provides assistance to pet owners who cannot afford to pay for their pet’s medical care. The organization provides financial aid for a variety of conditions, including heart disease. However, RedRover does not provide grants for routine or preventative care. To apply for a grant from RedRover Relief, pet owners must fill out an extensive application that includes details about the veterinary care needed and expected costs. Grants are awarded on a rolling basis until funds are exhausted each month.

Care Credit

CareCredit is a credit card that can be used to pay for veterinary services. The card is usable at any facility that accepts credit cards and offers no-interest financing plans with terms that vary depending on the amount charged. Their website contains an online application form, FAQs, and other information about the program and its requirements.

Humane Society of the United States

The Humane Society of the United States sponsors the Pets for Life program which provides pet owners in underserved communities with information about low-cost spay/neuter and veterinary care services, as well as resources on training, grooming, and other pet-related needs.

The FACE Foundation

FACE stands for the Foundation for Animal Care and Education. This nonprofit foundation provides grants of up to $5,000 toward the cost of treating your pet’s life-threatening illness or injury. The application process takes about two weeks and requires a veterinarian’s recommendation and proof of your income.

Please note: This list is maintained for informational purposes only. We cannot guarantee that these organizations will provide financial assistance in all cases.

Conclusion of euthanizing a dog with congestive heart failure

The vet should be able to help you make that decision, but it will always come down to your own feelings about the situation. You know your dog better than anyone and if he isn’t responding well to treatment or appears miserable then it’s probably time for euthanasia.

The last few weeks of a dog who is dying of congestive heart failure are difficult to watch. Your dog may experience weakness, extreme fatigue, and a lack of appetite, among other symptoms. Your vet will likely prescribe medications to help with your dog’s breathing and fluid buildup, but these do not always work for very long. The best treatment for CHF is early detection and treatment, but sometimes the disease progresses so rapidly that it is difficult to control.

The most important thing you can do for your dog when he or she is dying of congestive heart failure is to make sure he or she is comfortable. This may mean giving your dog extra pillows and blankets to sleep on, having water available at all times, and putting your dog in a cool room if he or she is suffering from heat stress. If you know when your dog’s last day will be, it may help to plan ahead by preparing a special meal or taking your dog out for one last walk in the park.

Dog with heart disease showing improvements after switching from grain-free diet
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Hannah Elizabeth is an English animal behavior author, having written for several online publications. With a degree in Animal Behaviour and over a decade of practical animal husbandry experience, Hannah's articles cover everything from pet care to wildlife conservation. When she isn't creating content for blog posts, Hannah enjoys long walks with her Rottweiler cross Senna, reading fantasy novels and breeding aquarium shrimp.

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