Pet Prescriptions from Australian Pharmacists

Treatments for heart failure in dogs

When a dog's heart is unable to pump an adequate amount of blood, this is known as congestive heart failure. this causes an increase in pressure and fluid that eventually leaks out into the lungs or elsewhere. Congestive heart failure is not a disease itself but rather a condition that occurs as the result of severe heart disease. Pulmonary edema, which is the build-up of fluid in a dog's lungs or pleural effusion, which is a build-up around the lungs hinders the normal expansion of the lungs and restricts oxygen properly moving into the blood stream. This results in the dog taking deep and rapid breaths in an attempt to get enough oxygen. A dog with fluid in their lungs has trouble exercising, might cough, and will appear weak and sluggish. Often a dog with heart failure will not have a good appetite, in addition to other symptoms.

Best Treatment for heart failure in dogs

Which treatment for congestive heart failure is best depends on the underlying heart disease and how severe the heart failure is. Your vet will recommend the best action to take. Generally the goal of the treatment recommended by your vet for heart disease will be to reduce the buildup of fluid around your dog's lungs and to increase the amount of blood being pumped by the heart to the lungs and the rest of the body. This will improve the quality and length of a dog's life. Your vet has a choice of a variety of medications, supplements and diets to help reach these goals. One of the most common types of medication used is called an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor, or ACE inhibitor. Examples of these are enalapril (Enacard®), lisinopril and benazepril. These have been shown to improve both clinical signs and survival in dogs and cats with congestive heart failure.

Diuretics are another group of drugs that cause fluid in the body to be taken up by the kidneys and excreted as urine. These are very effective in treating congestive heart failure, since they remove the excess fluid that has built up. There are many different types of diuretics including loop diuretics such as furosemide (Lasix®), thiazide diuretics such as hydrochlorothiazide (Microzide®), and potassium-sparing diuretics such as spironolactone (Aldactone®). Your veterinarian will choose the most appropriate diuretic based on each individual animal.

Another group of drugs, called vasodilators, relax (or dilate) blood vessels in the body and decrease the amount of pressure on the heart and allow it to pump blood forward with greater ease. Examples of these drugs are nitroglycerine (Nitrostat®), hydralazine (Apresoline®), and sodium nitroprusside (Nipride®). ACE inhibitors also have vasodilator effects.

Another group of drugs called positive inotropes may also be administered in certain cases to increase the force with which the heart muscle beats (increased vigor of contraction), allowing it to pump more blood forward to the lungs and the rest of the body. Pimobendan (Vetmedin®) is the most commonly used positive inotrope. Others include digoxin, milrinone, and dobutamine.

In addition to medications, there are other therapies to help improve and or help prevent cases of congestive heart failure. Modifying your dog's diet and limiting the amount of salt they eat is a critical component of treating congestive heart failure. For many pets with congestive heart failure, exercise restriction is a crucial aspect of therapy in order to reduce the risk of worsening their condition or even death.