When to Euthanize a Dog With Heart Failure

Our dogs are our family and we never want them to experience pain or discomfort, but at the same time, letting go can be equally difficult.

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

Heart failure in dogs

Heart failure is the term given when the heart is no longer performing effectively. This means the heart is not pumping the required amount of blood for the dog’s other organs to function normally.

As the condition progresses, blood will start to accumulate in other areas of the body such as the stomach or the lungs. This puts the dog at high risk of hemorrhage and other serious complications.

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

Dog heart failure when to euthanize

Choosing the right time to put your dog down can be overwhelming, but your veterinarian can guide you through the process. 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.

Conditions that cause canine heart failure

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.


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.


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.


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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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