Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive heart failure is a clinical syndrome rather than an actual disease or diagnosis.  It is the end stage of many types of primary heart disease.  We characterize congestive heart failure as either left sided congestive heart failure or right sided congestive heart failure. 

Left sided congestive heart failure occurs when the heart is no longer functioning properly, and fluid begins to collect in the lungs.  This prevents proper oxygen exchange.  Failure to rapidly diagnose and treat congestive heart failure can result in death.  Common causes of left heart failure include severe mitral (heart) valve degeneration, dilated cardiomyopathy (failure of heart muscle), bacterial endocarditis (infection of heart lining), certain congenital heart defects, and less commonly systemic high blood pressure. 

Right sided congestive heart failure occurs when the right side of the heart is no longer functioning properly and cannot effectively pump blood to the lungs and left side of the heart.  Over time this results in fluid accumulation within the abdomen, in the chest around the lungs, and sometimes directly around the heart.  Causes of right heart failure include tricuspid (heart) valve degeneration, dilated cardiomyopathy, severe increase in pulmonary blood pressure secondary to chronic lung disease or chronic heartworm disease, and certain congenital cardiac defects. 

Dogs and cats that demonstrate signs of congestive heart failure (difficulty breathing, inability to sleep comfortably through the night, coughing) should be treated as a medical emergency.

Management of congestive heart failure is possible, and we will discuss options for long term therapy during your visit to VSH