Definition of Heart Failure
Heart failure, also called congestive heart failure or CHF, is a general term that describes the inability of the heart to process enough blood to meet an animal’s bodily needs. It is the end result of a progressively weakened heart muscle and is one of the most serious medical conditions affecting domestic dogs. When enough blood can’t get into or out of the heart, fluid backs up in the blood vessels and leaks into the chest, causing congestion. CHF can be caused by trauma, congenital or developmental defects, infections, toxins, environmental stressors, breed predispositions and hereditary heart abnormalities. It can cause mild discomfort with few obvious signs, but can also cause severe breathing problems, life-threatening fluid overload and total heart shut-down. When a dog’s heart can’t pump blood properly, the liver, lungs, kidneys and brain also become compromised. Owners should learn about heart failure so that they recognize it and get their dog’s appropriate medical treatment.