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Congestive Heart Failure


Chronic congestive heart failure is a type of heart disease in which the heart does not pump enough blood around the body to take care of its normal requirements.


Pets affected by this complaint tire easily may have rapid breathing and a deep cough due to poor circulation through and fluid accumulating in the lungs.

When the condition is more advanced, pets lose weight and often have an enlarged abdomen due to accumulation of fluid (ascites).  The legs may become swollen and puffy.

These patients can collapse after exertion or excitement and the tongue appears bluish-grey in colour.

Congestive heart disease can result from heart valve disease acquired during life or from congenital defects present at birth.  Although this condition cannot be cured, some patients can live a comfortable life for a period of time with proper medical management.


The purpose of treatment for congestive heart failure is to increase the efficiency of the heart’s pumping action and to remove excessive fluid accumulation in the body.  Medication will be required on a DAILY BASIS FOR THE REST OF THE PATIENT’S NATURAL LIFE and often requires close monitoring and regular readjustment.

The type of medication given to your pet depends on the severity of the condition at the time of diagnosis, response to treatment and how well the condition is controlled.

In the early stages of congestive heart failure only one form of medication may be required to improve the efficiency of heart function, while in the later stages multiple forms of medication may be required to achieve a satisfactory level of control.

Medication:  Medication must be fitted to the particular needs of your pet.  Follow the instructions carefully.  Adjustments in dosage may be necessary from time to time.

Diet:   We generally recommend a salt-restricted diet.  Avoid feeding large meals, several smaller meals are better.

Exercise:  Some moderate exercise is beneficial and necessary for your pet’s circulation.


• Your pet has diarrhoea or vomits.
• Your pet has laboured breathing
• Your pet refuses to eat.
• Your pet’s normal activity begins to decrease.
• Your pet’s cough becomes worse.
• Your pet’s abdomen is enlarged.

© Forrest Hill Vets (2000) Ltd