“How should I approach my dog’s impending death? There aren’t any easy answers. My old dog, Buster, has congestive heart failure and he could go anytime. The thought of losing him is devastating and the idea that I should put him down just adds to my sorrow. The truth is he’s ready to go, but I’m not.”
Should I put a dog down with congestive heart failure?
The biggest problem with congestive heart failure is that there is no cure. When a dog has CHF, the veterinarian’s goal is to keep the dog comfortable as long as possible. In some cases, however, a dog’s quality of life may be so poor that it’s simply not worth it to keep him.
When a dog has congestive heart failure (CHF), it can be hard for them to breathe, and may fail to respond to even basic commands. It’s just not in his best interests to keep him alive any longer. Ultimately, this is something your veterinarian will have to decide based on information such as the dog’s age and activity level and the degree of difficulty he has with breathing.
The most important factor in determining life expectancy is the severity of the clinical signs. In some cases, dogs may only have mild coughing and exercise intolerance, while other dogs may have difficulty breathing and fainting episodes. If a dog’s condition is caught early, it can be managed and treated with medication to allow for a good quality of life for years. However, if a dog’s condition has progressed to include serious clinical signs such as fainting or difficulty breathing, then his prognosis is considered guarded at best.
A second important factor in determining life expectancy is the cause of congestive heart failure. For example, if congestive heart failure was caused by something that can be easily treated or corrected then the prognosis is much better than if it was caused by an irreversible problem such as degenerative valve disease (a condition common in older dogs).
You need to think about what quality of life your dog has. Is she still happy? Does she enjoy being with you? Is she still eating? Can she walk around a little bit? If you’re not sure, then don’t put her down yet. But if you know that your dog is miserable and there is no way for her to improve, then it may be time to let her go.
What are the final stages of congestive heart failure in dogs?
Here are some signs that your dog’s congestive heart failure has become severe and that it is time to consider putting him or her down:
- coughing up blood
- bloody or foamy sputum
- difficulty breathing
- loss of appetite
- blue, purple, or muddy gums and tongue
How can I make my dog comfortable with congestive heart failure?
To manage CHF well, your dog will need medication and monitoring. So making your dog comfortable will involve a number of things:
- Following up with your vet about adjustments to your pet’s medication regimen.
- Scheduling regular rechecks so that your vet can monitor how the heart is functioning.
- Watching for signs and symptoms of CHF in your pet and responding appropriately when they occur.
- Making changes at home, such as feeding smaller amounts more frequently to help prevent congestion from occurring.
- Keeping the home calm and quiet to avoid times of stress for pets living with CHF — this may mean keeping visitors away.
- Providing comfortable beds or pillows for pets who are having trouble getting comfortable because of their disease.
- Your veterinarian will determine which medications are appropriate in your pet’s case.
The cardioselective beta-blockers atenolol (Tenormin®) or metoprolol (Lopressor®) are commonly used to control rapid heart rates seen in dogs with congestive heart failure. Diuretics like furosemide (Lasix®) and spironolactone (Aldactazide®, Aldactone®) can be used to remove fluid from body tissues — most importantly from the lungs. Some dogs with congestive heart failure also have fluid accumulation in their abdomen, so removing that fluid helps relieve abdominal discomfort as well as shortness of breath.
How long can a senior dog live with congestive heart failure?
Congestive heart failure in older dogs is a disease with a high mortality rate. The prognosis for dogs with congestive heart failure varies depending on the cause and severity of the disease. Generally, once congestive heart failure develops, survival time is expected to be between 6 and 14 months.
All too frequently, we see senior dogs who have been diagnosed with CHF but whose owners were never told that death was imminent. We all want more time with our beloved pets, but the truth is that when we are talking about a dog who already has developed symptoms of congestive heart failure and then went on to develop even more severe symptoms, there’s very little we can do to help that dog live longer than it would have otherwise. That’s because once CHF has developed, the heart damage is permanent and can’t be reversed.
The type of treatment used will also affect how long your dog lives. For example, animals that are treated medically usually have a longer life expectancy than those that require surgical intervention. The success of the treatment also depends on the severity of the disease at the time of diagnosis and how well your dog responds to therapy.
Conclusion of euthanizing a dog with congestive heart failure
A dog with advanced congestive heart failure may need to be euthanized. When considering this option, you should ask your vet how long she thinks your dog has to live, and what his quality of life will be like. You should also consider whether or not you can afford the ongoing treatment. It can be helpful to talk to a trusted friend or family member about what you’re going through, as it’s difficult to make this decision on your own.
If your dog is experiencing CHF, there are many treatment options. These treatments may help improve your dog’s quality of life and may also increase longevity. However, as CHF is a progressive disease and there is no cure for it, eventually you will have to make the difficult decision of whether or not to euthanize your pet.
Because this process can be lengthy, it’s important to know when the time has come. There are several signs that may indicate that your dog is suffering and should be euthanized.
- Difficulty breathing
- Coughing up blood or bloody mucus
- Heavy panting or frantic breathing
- Restlessness or pacing at night
- Trouble standing up or walking (especially after resting) or collapsing while walking or in the middle of the play
- Lack of interest in food or water