Congestive heart failure, or CHF, is a pretty common problem in dogs. The heart can’t pump enough blood forward to meet the needs of the body, usually because of a leaky heart valve but sometimes because the heart muscle is thin and weak.
Signs of CHF depend on which side of the heart is involved. With right-sided heart failure, blood returning to the heart from the rest of the body backs up, and fluid leaks into the abdomen and legs. Affected dogs may have a fluid-filled belly, compromised organs and swollen legs.
With left-sided CHF — the most common type — blood backs up in the lungs, where fluid causes coughing and labored breathing.
In general, dogs with CHF have less energy, increased respiratory effort and weight loss.
Management of CHF is usually lifelong, but it starts with a trip to your veterinarian.