Congestive heart failure in dogs can be fatal if it’s not diagnosed and treated on time. Probably the second most common health problem what a Chihuahua can encounter during his life. This is a condition in which the heart becomes weak and inefficient. What does this mean for your pet?
CHF is a broad, umbrella term used to describe specific cardiac diseases. The major cardiac problem seen in older Chihuahuas is left-sided valvular disease, also called mitral valve disease. This is a disorder in which the heart valve slowly thickens and becomes deformed, causing the valve to leak; a soft murmur is often heard with this leakage. Chihuahua have a genetic predisposition for this disease.
Other causes of CHP are poor dental health (bacteria in the mouth can travel through the bloodstream and cause abnormalities on the heart valves) and heartworm disease.
After hearing abnormal heart sounds, your veterinarian may perform blood work, a urinalysis and take chest X-rays. The vet may also perform
an echocardiogram (a cardiac ultrasound to evaluate heart pumping) or an electrocardiogram (an EKG, which measures the rate and regularity of heartbeats). These tests will evaluate the overall health of your pet, and the diseases of the heart, allowing your veterinarian to prescribe appropriate treatment.
Your veterinarian will recommend various drugs and management tools to help control your dog’s condition. Depending on your dog’s needs, these might include some of the following:
- Diuretics can remove some of the excess fluid in the body that cause swelling.
- Vasodilators widen blood vessels and lower blood pressure, making it easier for the heart to pump blood.
- Digoxin improves the ability of the heart to pump blood.
- Reduced-salt diets minimize the need for diuretics and reduce fluid retention in the lungs. Special diets are available or your veterinarian can help you plan home-cooked meals.
- Restricted exercise helps prevent over exertion of the heart.
CHF cannot be cured and the prognosis is guarded. If detected early, your pet can be made comfortable and survive for many years. If the disease is diagnosed in later stages, life expectancy for your Chihuahua could be as little as a few months.