Congestive Heart Failure / Cardiomyopathy

Continuing with the heart theme in the month of love, this week’s blog will discuss a few other heart conditions. These complicated conditions are serious health concerns that may require a veterinarian that specializes in cardiac care. Cardiomyopathy and Congestive Heart Failure are two of the major heart conditions that affects our pets. This article will give a quick description of what these conditions are signs of the disease and the prognosis.



Diseases of the heart muscle are called cardiomyopathy. There are three major types of cardiomyopathy: restrictive cardiomyopathy, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and dilated cardiomyopathy. There may be little to no signs at the beginning stages of any of these conditions. Keen pet owners may only observe a lower activity level and exercise intolerance.


Restrictive cardiomyopathy is the rarest of the three major types.


Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the thickening of the heart’s wall.  Cats are typically affected by this condition.  Maine Coons and Persians are at a higher risk of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.


Dilated cardiomyopathy is the thinning of the heart’s wall. Many large dog breeds like Boxers, Doberman Pinschers and Great Danes are affected by this condition, but almost any breed can develop dilated cardiomyopathy.


Long term prognosis for a pet with cardiomyopathy can vary depending on what caused the disease.


Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive Heart Failure is just like it sounds – the heart becomes congested and then fails to perform properly. I read a great comparison from CVCA. It said think of the heart as a basement sump pump. If it rains and the sump pump isn’t working then the basement floods. When a healthy heart is working, blood from the body goes into the right side of the heart through a vein, gets oxygenated by the lungs and exits out the left side of the heart through an artery. The blood from a heart that isn’t working properly goes to inappropriate areas.  When the right side of the heart fails, blood can fill in the abdominal and/or chest cavities. When the left side of the heart fails, blood can fill the lungs. Although long-term prognosis for heart disease is guarded, early detection and medical therapy can maintain a decent quality of life. Medical therapy involves a three level approach to help the heart work efficiently. Separate medications to decrease the amount of preload and afterload and a different medication to increase the force of the heart’s contractions  Congestive Heart Failure – just like many other conditions – will progress and relapse. It is of the utmost importance to have your CHF pet seen by a veterinarian every 6-12 months. They will need to have blood work to monitor how their body is responding to the medications they are on.


Monitoring your pet at home for the following signs:

  • exercise intolerance – panting quickly after small amount of exercise or quits play quickly.
  • increased coughing
  • labored breathing
  • persistent increase in respiratory rate or effort
  • fainting
  • weakness

If you notice any of these signs, call your veterinarian immediately.


Despite the seriousness of heart problems, you can help your four-legged friend by caring for their heart.


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