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Congestive Heart Failure

With its ability to onset at any age, in any breed or gender, congestive heart failure (CHF) is one of the most serious canine and feline heart conditions. Congestive heart failure is characterized by the heart’s inability to circulate enough blood to meet the body’s demands. Because a heart muscle becomes weakened by CHF, the health of other organs suffers, including that of the liver, kidneys, and lungs.

CHF can be caused by the left, right, or both valves interrupting blood flow and causing blood to back up. Left side valvular disease occurs when blood accumulates in the lungs or abdomen, though this is less common in cats. Right side valvular disease arises when blood has collected in the vena cava and jugular vein, which causes the heart to pump faster and work harder; this eventually causes the heart to enlarge, forcing the heart’s internal chamber capacity to decrease, which means less blood can be pumped out. This entire consequence is cyclic, again causing the heart to work harder and continue to enlarge.

A pet with congestive heart failure can continue to function normally for months, even years, without exhibiting any outward signs of something being wrong; therefore, it can be difficult for an owner to tell that a serious cardiovascular condition exists.

Early signs of congestive heart failure: 

  • Bloating
  • Coughing during increased activity
  • Decreased activity level
  • Easily tiring
  • Fainting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Pacing and restlessness before bed
  • Rapid breathing
  • Unexplained weight loss

Diagnosis of congestive heart failure

Identifying the cause of congestive heart failure is often an involved process. Diagnosis begins with a full physical examination, during which the veterinarian can find key indicators of congestive heart failure, including a scratchy sound in the lungs when breathing or a subdued sounding heartbeat. Following the physical, there are several tests the veterinarian may perform:

  • Blood pressure measurement – high blood pressure suggests CHF
  • Echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) – allows the veterinarian to visualize valvular deformities, cardiac muscle-wall thickening, and valvular leakage
  • Electrocardiogram – measures electric impulses of the heart
  • X-rays – can depict fluid build-up in the abdomen or lungs. Can also show an enlarged heart

Depending on specific indicators, other tests can be performed, including heartworm tests in dogs and feline leukemia virus tests in cats. The veterinarian will determine which tests your pet needs based upon the results of their physical exam.

Treating congestive heart failure

While there remains no cure for congestive heart failure, the ability to treat its symptoms depends on the severity and causes. The goal of treatment is to enable a pet’s body to compensate for its enlarged heart, thus preventing further damage. Most often, CHF is treated on an out-patients basis unless breathing is extremely difficult, in which case a pet may need to be placed on oxygen therapy and held overnight.

There are several medications that might be prescribed to help improve a pet’s quality of life. Depending on the amount of fluid in the chest, a diuretic may be necessary to aid with drying out the bodily tissues. Alongside a diuretic, various vasodilators can improve blood flow, while other drugs can improve the strength of the heart. Prescriptions are written on an individual basis, and the veterinarian will determine which medications are best for your pet’s needs. Usually it is beneficial for all CHF sufferers to limit their sodium intake, as sodium helps determine the amount of water in the blood vessels and body tissues, and drying up excess fluids is beneficial for CHF sufferers.

If you have any questions about congestive heart failure or would like to discuss any health concerns with our staff, contact our office today.

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Testimonials

Here's a vet that still cares.
Just wanted to say I love Dr. Petcu's staff and his compassionate , caring way of taking care of my dogs.The staff is not only friendly and professional ,they know who you are when you arrive ,and they actually love animals. Is the first Animal Hospital that my dogs are at ease and feel comfortable.The place is very clean and the reception area very elegant and inviting. Exquisite services and Dr. Petcu always take his time to explain the disease and options and still finds time to play with my dogs. He's always treated both his animal and human patients with compassion and dignity,and would never recommend procedures unless he truly feels your pet will benefit from it. One of the vets that cares for your pet. The prices are reasonable and the services exceed all expectations. I Highly recommend Dr.Petcu and his hospital.

Reba S

hands down -THE BEST ANIMAL HOSPITAL.
Western Animal Hospital AMAZING! Western Animal Hospital is the best place in the valley .The staff is professional, friendly, caring and accommodating. The hospital is very clean and upscale. The customer service and the provided services are outstanding.Dr. Petcu is one of the most professional veterinarians that i have ever met in my 25 years of pet parenting. I drive across the valley just to see him( i live in Anthem) .He really cares about his animal patients and it shows in every visits . He is very knowledgeable , compassionate, friendly and always takes the time to answer any question i have and explaining in detail any situation we are dealing with. I had my share of visits to many animal hospitals in the valley but none of them had the last technology as Western - digital X-ray ( they send you home with a cd for you x-ray records ) every room has a computer monitor where the x-ray shows and Dr. Petcu can review with me every detail of it. Also they have the laser surgery and digital dental x-ray. Dr. petcu is one of the most
courteous and pleasant Vets I have ever met. The prices are more than reasonable and also they try to accommodate everybody. I cannot recommend them enough. You can rest easy knowing your pets are in their care.I STRONGLY RECOMMEND THIS HOSPITAL - THEY HAVE A CUSTOMER FOR LIFE IN ME! very good !

Betty K

Western Animal Hospital this doctor is making a lot of sense and will explain everything in details..
prices are great ....

.the best vet I met !! Pam M. 5 Western Animal Hospital - we are bringing our pets to Dr Petcu for 8 years. He was always helpful, many times we did not have the funds to treat our pets but he was fine with us paying when we had the money. He saved our cats in many instances and all I have to say is that I greatly reccomend Western Animal Hospital for any responsable pet owner .

Yolanda M

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