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Avatar universal

I need advice about my dogs congestive heart failure.

My dog about 15 years old, and has e. She was diagnosed about a year ago. And the vet just put her on water pills. That's all she is on still. About every two months she goes through these coughing/hacking spells. Is this normal for dogs with CHF? We have tried EVERYTHING to help, but NOTHING works.
I just want to know if she is suffering or in pain! The vet I'm going to just doesn't seem to know what she is doing. Of course nether do I so I really shouldn't be talking. I really want to take her to a different vet for a 2nd opinion but worried about the cost. The hacking spells are becoming more often and lasting longer, and becoming harder and harder to keep her from coughing (with cough syrup etc). The one she is going through right now has lasted 2 weeks. The vet gave us antibiotics and a strong cough syrup. I also upped the water pills. Its not as bad, but not completely gone. She's just doped up 24/7 now. I just feel helpless.  I don't want to see her suffer, if she is. I just lost one of my other dogs a week ago, seeing her go though this is just killing me. IS SHE IN PAIN? When she goes through these spells does that mean she cant breath? cause I can hear it in her chest. like a weez. PLEASE help. I'm just at a loss of what to do anymore.
But, when she isn't going through these spells she is as happy as can be. Running around like a puppy.
64 Responses
Avatar universal
Sorry I ment, "My dog about 15 years old, and has congestive heart failure" I dont know why it just says "e"....
462827 tn?1333168952
Hello & welcome....
I'll get back with you on this....I have to be out of town, today.....Karla
974371 tn?1424653129
This is the 3 rd time I'm trying to post this.  
Sorry to hear about your girl but she has definitely lived into old age so you must take very good care of her.  Not much you can do for CHF but try to manage it with meds and diet.  Good that she is on the diuretic.  Did the Vet prescribe any heart med like Enalapril maybe? There are many heart meds depending on the problem.  She needs to be on a low sodium diet.  I believe there are low sodium dog foods out there for dogs with heart problems.  Giving Omega 3 may help some.  Is your Vet checking the potassium levels in the blood and the kidney function?  Those should be monitored, esp if the dog in on a diuretic.  I'm not sure why he has her on an antibiotic unless he is afraid of pneumonia?  Unfortunately, yes, the coughing will probably get worse as fluid continues to build up but, hopefully, you have some good time left with her. Is she in pain?  Probably not. Her biggest problem is going to be with the breathing.  You will know when/if she is uncomfortable.  She may restless, not want to lay on her side, loose her appetite, etc.
I'm going to put a link to a very good article about CHF in dogs and perhaps that will help you to understand what is going on, what can be tried and what to expect.  Please keep us posted and just give her lots of love and attention.  
974371 tn?1424653129
Sorry, forgot to add the link.

Avatar universal
The vet has not put her on any heart meds, or hasn't even talked about putting her on any. I'm not even sure if she as EVER done blood test on her, not that I've been told anyways. The only thing the vet as done was do an x-ray on her. The reason she was put on the antibiotics was because The vet said she (my dog) might just have a sore throat, and thats why she is coughing.  I mean, it really didn't make sense to me, but hey I'm not a vet! I don't understand why she didn't/hasn't put her on some kind of heart pill! I mean, I know the cough is from CHF, but it's like the vet doesn't. you know?
Some people have told me I need to put her down, I'm just confused. I just really don't want to do that if she still can have some what of a quality life. But maybe I'm just being selfish, and scared. I've had her since I was 4 years old, I'm about to be 20 now. I don't even know what its like NOT to have her with me.
Thanks for your advice on the dog food and stuff! I'll have to go get some!
I am going to be honest....you need a new vet. Period. If she has CHF  Diuretic alone won't cut it. She needs Vetmedin or Enalapril or both. My dog is on those as well as Lasix (the diuretic).
They should want to do an ECHO to find out more

This sounds like a not legitimate vet. Coughing spells are a very common sign of CHF, perhaps the most common.
Avatar universal
And thanks for that link!!!
462827 tn?1333168952
Wow...Great Link Margot!!!

Kelsie, How did your Vet diagnose CHF? What was the xray of and what did he/she find on the xray? Do you know? Was there fluid in her lungs? Was her Heart enlarged? COuld the Vet hear a heart murmur?  Something had to lead to this diagnoses....How do you know the cough is from CHF?

I've never heard of a dog with heart problems not put on a Heart medication along with Lasix (Fluid Pill)...

This doesn't sound to me like your dog is getting the needed care from your Vet.....I agree w/you.....Please, come back and let me know more.....Thanks, Karla
Avatar universal
The vet did an x ray of her chest. When she first did the xray she called me and told me it was a collapsed trachea, but she was sending the xray off for a second opinion. About two weeks later she called and said the second opinion thinks it CHF. Never told me why they thought that. But she thought it was weird cause every time she listens to her heart she doesn't hear a murmur. The first time I took her to the vet (3 week before the xray) she was shocked my dog was 15 after listening to her heart. I just assumed the cough was from CHF cause thats what they told me she had, and I read some coughing was symptom.

But, I'm calling the vet today and gonna get a appointment (hopefully for today). I'm going to talk to her about other meds she should/needs to be put on.
462827 tn?1333168952
Hi Kelsielu....So, the xrays didn't show an enlarged heart? Do you know if her lungs sound congested or not?

I'm sorry, but what your describing DOES NOT sound like CHF to me....I think you need a new Vet!!!

With CHF, the cough is usually after excitement, exercise, worse at night & early morning and pretty much consistant.....Since your dog has this off and on, This sounds more like Asthma/Bronchitis & the treatment is completely different.....Bronchial dialators, cough meds., Inhalers & limited Steroids are given during these attacks.....With Lung disease, an Enlarged Heart is possible because of lack of oxygen over a period of time.....

IMO, your Vet should have been able to read her own Xray for any of this, including a Collapsed Trachea....There was NO reason to send the xray out......I'm afraid for your dog if you continue to let this Vet QUESS at what is wrong.....

Please, let me know how the appointment goes if you make one.....Karla
Avatar universal
So I just called the vet, I have an appointment for Tuesday. She is going to do another xray.
I said, "She has been doing this for 2 weeks now, what you gave her isn't working. Don't you think its time to put her on some type of heart meds?!"
She said, "Before I put her on any heart meds, I want to do another xray I'll give you more cough syrup in the mean time"

After the appointment, and xray I will let ya know what she said/did. I am also looking for other vets around where I live. Its my mom who pays for most of the vet/meds cause I don't have that much money at the moment. So my mom just worried about cost and such.

Karla, Thank you for all your help, and advice! I mean it, thanks.
1660289 tn?1302556798
My Shih Tzu (many years ago) had the cough, and was eventually diagnosed with CHF, at age 13. I believe that cough is from too much fluid around the heart.
I cooked food for her and she did quite well. But at one point the vet thought she should be on a special food for her condition (to get proper nutrients etc). her cough came back within a week. I checked the sodium content on the bag and it was higher than many of the cheapie store brand dog foods.
My vet was upset, she actually contacted the sales rep.
I cooked my dog's food added omega fish oil and she did quite well (with heart med also) until we let her go at age 17....(vision/hearing loss were bad)
Good luck!
PS we did initially check for collapsed trachea and she had one episode of syncopy
Avatar universal
Can you tell me what you were feeding your dog?  I have a 9 year old black lab who was just diagnosed two weeks ago.  We have him on all the herat meds (enalapril, diltiazem, spironolactone, Vitamedin) as well as Lasix and Taurine and L-Carnitine Supplements.  He seems to be doing much better in terms of activity, etc but I am having a horrible time trying to get him to eat!  He won't eat the wet prescrition dog food that the vet recommended for digestion (Hills Prescrption Dier I/D) and won't touch the dry Early Cardiac Food (Royal Canin) either.  He was eating boiled hamburger and rice for a couple of days but now has gone off that as well.  I just want him to eat! I am starting to think that maybe CHF is affecting his sense of smell and he can't smell the food so won't eat it?  Any suggestions? He is so young and I don't want him to starve to death!  Please help!
1660289 tn?1302556798
I made her various meals & would divide them up, freeze some occasionally.
Usually ground lamb but sometimes chicken or turkey, even liver, cooked up & added some cooked rice, cooked veggies like green beans or carrots. Once in awhile I would add some cooked potatoes or pasta.
Also broke open a gel capsule of omega fish oil on the food just before serving.
Doggie vitamins & a sprinkle on probiotic might be a good idea. I had one vet suggest adding a crushed Tums for calcium.
When I have had a dog go off his food I have used the Iams gravy,beef, bacon flavor, just a bit seems to have enough smell to get them eating.
I went through this several months ago with a dog I have now who went through a bad Lyme flareup as well as having a skin allergy so he was miserable & wouldn't eat. So I cooked his food for several weeks.
Good luck!
Avatar universal
Sorry Its taken so long to answer back. Been very busy with a new job. After the xray she put her on vetmdin. A whole pill in the morning and half at night, and upped her water pill to two pills a day. She didn't really tell me what the xray showed. She kind of rushed me out before I could ask any questions. But (for now) this seems to have helped.
Is there any other pills other then the Vetmdin my dog should be on?
Avatar universal
Have you tried putting gravy over the dog food. I had a dog that stopped eating and thats what we did, and it worked. Maybe theres something else going on with your dog other than the CHF?
Avatar universal
I too have a dog with CHF - 14 yr old shih tzu.  I've broken the piggy bank and gone into major debt, but I can't bear to lose him.  Like you, I lost another dog (12yr. old) last Sept suddenly to liver cancer so I am trying hard as I can to keep him as long as I can - he sees a  cardiologist regularly and they have been wonderful.  Maybe some of what we are doing might help you.  The meds they have prescribed has done wonders - night and day from when he didn't have them.  Don't laugh - but initially what he was prescribed was Viagara because it opens up the blood vessels and make it not so difficult for his heart to pump blood.  He was also on water pills (dieuretics - Lasix).  The dosage does have to be adjusted to the point where he is not getting more than he needs, but enough to do what it required - help flush the water out of his lungs (that's why he is gag coughing).  The dierutics can damage the kidneys because it making it work harder so that's why it's important to experiement with the dosage so that you can keep it down to a minimum. My dog takes half of a 25mg Lasix pill twice a day.  That was when he was not in the CHF stage.  His disease has however, has progressed into the CHF stage now and he is on 4 meds a day, twice a day.  The two mentioned above, and Pimobendan, and Benazerpril.  They take xrays of his chest at each vist to monitor whether the meds are still keeping his lungs clear and a bloodtest to monitor his counts, in particular his kidneys.  I hope you find some of this information helpful and it helps your baby.
p.s. Here is a link that I found very helpful - http://www.2ndchance.info/conghtfaildog.htm
Avatar universal
p.s.  Also, if he is in CHF, you need to keep his diet low sodium.  Sodium makes his heart have to work harder because the sodium is retaining water.  He doesn't have beef in his diet anymore because I find his system just can't process it.  It gives him diaherra.  I keep his diet to be chicken.  He was also not eatting at the beginning.  In fact he would just eat like a few licks of food every two days.  He lost so much weight and was so weak.  Then as we figured out the meds he needs and the dosage, he felt better, more comfortable, and his appetite slowly returned.  Also, the dieuretics can also make him feel not like eating (that's what they told me anyway - that's why they were checking his "urea" count in this bloodtest.  I went thru the same thing - tried every thing under the moon, hamburger, even steak, nothing.  One product that another site mentioned which I used for a little while just so I can get some nutrient into him is "Dog Sure" when he wasn't eating.  It's by Petag.  
Avatar universal
my chichuahua had CHF, she is 5lbs, she has had it for 3 yrs, at stage 6.
Runs around like a puppy sometimes.  She coughs hard after naps, starting to lose a little bladder control, not to bad. She is on Lasix 1/2 twice a day and Encard 1/2 twice a day. She was on Encard once a day, but got worst, heart enlarged and tray closed up some.  Second Encard helped and increased her appetite alot.  She has had crystals in urine in the past and is on Science Diet CD.  She is 12 and only has 5 teeth, I chop her food in a small blender, and add a little water and place in microwave about 7 seconds, she dances around till I put her dish on the floor, she eats so fast, and it's gone in min.  I Believe God has given me alot of wisdom with her, 3 years doing good. I hope you know Jesus as your Saviour. I hope your dog eats better soon, Encare is a heart pill, very cheap, maybe it will work for you to increase appetite.
2135598 tn?1335893868
I have a 15 year old Beagle with congestive heart failure (CHF).  She was diagnosed over 2 years ago.  She is on a daily routine of several medicines.  

She too has a cough, it started out as an occasional cough and has worked it's way into a very violent cough.  The cough can be caused by extra fluid around the heart but if no fluid is present then it's most likely due to the enlarged heart pushing into the trachea making your pet feel like something is caught in his/her throat.  

Medicine my dog is on daily

Vetmedin 5mg twice a day--(basically helps blood flow without overworking the heart---prior to this newer medicine vets did not have a lot of good heart meds and some prescribed Viagra--although VetMedin is expensive, Viagra is more expensive!)  This bottle contains 50 pills so it lasts almost a month and costs me $85, my mom's vet charges $75 for it, so it varies a bit.  It is only made by one manufacturer currently, hence the price which should lower when it is available in generic form.  It's only available in a "chewable tablet" however my dog hates it and must be tricked into taking it.  The manufacturer says it's okay to grind it into a powder form and mix it into a wet food as long as it's used right away but not to dilute it with water. ( I use a teaspoon of highly likable wet food and make a meatball out of the powder--I also stuff the following medications into the meatball.)

Furosemide is often called the "water pill"  and is basically a diuretic.  A diuretic helps eliminate excess fluid, especially around the heart, helping the heart's ability to work properly.  It's made by many manufacturers and the most popular calling it "Lasix."  My dog is about 34lbs and she takes 20mg twice a day.  Occasionally we have to play with the dosage if she accumulates excess fluid in the chest cavity.  We've only had a couple of episodes where we had to play with the dosage with the ultimate goal of always trying to get back to the recommended dose, if possible.  This medication is very inexpensive, like $14 dollars for a month's supply.  If your vet writes a prescription for your pet you can take it to Wal-Mart and get this drug for $4.

Benazepril 5mg twice a day--certain chemicals in our bodies cause our blood vessels to tighten, causing the heart to work harder to pump blood through it.  This drug lowers the amount of those chemicals allowing the heart to not work so hard.  This drug is marketed under many names including Lotensin and Vetace.  It's also inexpensive like Furosemide, however I do not know the cost of it at Wal-Mart.

Hydrocodone 5mg given two or three times a day.  Prevents most coughing by depressing the cough center in the brain.  As I stated above my dogs cough is at a pretty violent stage and if she doesn't take this medicine she would cough all day long very violently.  In my dog's case, it's because her large heart is pushing on her trachea making her think something is in her throat, causing her to cough.  She still has some coughing in between dosing and all the excitement of coughing causes her to hyper-salivate--this can cause her to spit up saliva.  I do play with this dosage, and it's based on weight, but her heart specialist says I can give it safely up to three times a day.  She took it twice a day for a long time but I've recently almost permanently increased it to three times a day.

About a "large heart."  It isn't that your dog's heart is growing larger, it's out of shape.  It's a big muscle that works hard.  This muscle contains fibers that work like a rubber band while it pumps blood, eventually the rubber band looses it's elasticity causing it to "stretch out."  This is what pushes into your dogs trachea causing coughing and also what causes the heart failure as the fibers have a hard time pumping.

The above is not medical advice, it's my experience based on my pet's race with congestive heart failure.
Avatar universal
Coughing in chf has nothing to do w/'coughing' (like what humans use for coughs), it has to do w/her heart's congestion.  Both my dogs are old and in mid-stages of chf where coughing is minimal.  If your vet doesn't know what this excessive coughing is in relation to chf dump her quick.  There are few dvm's who are heart specialists but the one I took my dogs to put them on furosemide (lasix/waterpills), enalapril and Vetmedin.  The first two are pretty cheap, like $15 for a month or two's supply; the third is pricey and I'm monitoring to see if I see it really is making difference.  Right now I'm online bc one dog's breathing sounds are seeming a little more congested, like a very soft snore.  I'm researching which med (enalapril or furosemide) is related directly to that.  Google chf and each of those 3 meds, pick a couple 'real' vet-related/sponsored sites and learn more yourself, so you can know what you are seeing and thus help new vet w/better treatment program.  There should be at least radiographs of pet to see what type of chf it is experiencing - I don't remember the difference btwn the two as both my dogs have same type and one has long-time heart murmur as well.  They've been diagnosed and on meds for about 8 months now and are doing pretty well but I monitor for changes I see, so meds can be adjusted.  They still play w/each other, run and greet me at door, and bark at passing cars and imaginary dangers on our little dirt road.  So quality of life is still good; they just can't go hiking w/me any more.  Hope that helps - there's a lot you can learn on your own and it's my understanding that these 3 drugs are the only treatment.  Oh, one more thing - when on enalapril and furosemide, the diet has to be very different; lower protein, no salt, and I believe lower potassium.  Dr. Pitcairns Natural Health for Dogs & Cats has some good info on 'recipes' and what to avoid food wise.  Most dog foods contain too much salt, potassium and protein.  Protein to non-protein ratio should be in the 15% to 18% range and that protein should be of very high quality (human-grade chicken or other meats) --well, look at Pitcairn's book or check out chf diets online.  The meds impact their kidneys and they can die of renal failure from a diet that is not specifically tailored to chf.  Not that hard to do and hope I haven't made it seem that way but it's def'ly more than opening a can or dumping some kibble out in 2 minutes.
Avatar universal
My 15 year old keeshond was diagnosed with CHF. A week later vet told us to put her down. She was not eating, exercising and coughing and hacking constantly. We would get her to eat tuna rice and chicken at times. If she ate a food one day the next she wouldnt want it. She would only eat in the evenings. She wouldnt eat what a  normal dog should. Even when she drank water she would hack and cough so bad.  After hours of reading blogs on this  web site i decided i need to take action.  I went to another vet and he prescribed,lasix,furosemide. Well after 4 days my dog is starting to eat her regular kibble food with all the extras she likes. He appetite has come back bigtime. Not only that today i took her for a wagon ride. When i took her out she started to run at a good speed for a few minutes. I couldnt believe it. We had never had xrays on the dog so i am wondering how this happened. This dog could not move at all on some days, her eyes so droopy very sick look. Then  looking very good. I am wondering if she may have had an infection or something else then what the vet said.
Avatar universal
what the heck is with some of the vets that you could get such a horrible diagnosis!!! Its awful that had you listened to that one your dog would be gone now. I  just read some other thread and that person's vet sounds incompetent!! Glad you did your own research and tried alternatives. That is great that your dog has improved so much!!
Avatar universal
Today my 15 year old keeshond went through some kind of situation today. She was on the floor and stood up. Next thing i know is she flops right down to the floor with a thump. Her legs spread out like if a dog was on a sheet of ice. She tried to get back up and couldnt. I tried to calm her down by petting her, she was calm and not hostile.she was looking at me the whole time . About five minutes layer i  took an open can of tuna and put it in front of her. She started to eat eat. In the next few minutes she got up very wobbly and went to her water bowl which was two feet away and drank water. She seemed to be able to drink water  on her own. Later on a family member shows up and the dogs starts barking all normal. I am just wondering what happened. She is currently on lasix and vetemedin. Today was her first day of vetemedin so im wondering , maybe a reaction.
Avatar universal
Yesterday we had to put our keeshond down. CHF and edema got so bad she couldnt walk anymore.
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