Heart Failure in Dogs-Why it happens and how we can Prevent it

Causes and treatments for heart failure in dogs
Nylah Huq
Grade 6


Many dogs get heart failure in their lives. Heart failure can impact the dog for the rest of its life, even if the dog has recovered. After experiencing heart failure, some dogs' hearts will never be as strong as before, making them very vulnerable to other diseases. The dog's quality of life will change after being diagnosed with heart failure because they will not have as much strength as usual. 


I will also be studying why heart failure happens and how diet affects the heart. 

I searched online for information using Google search. I used search terms like

  • heart failure in dogs
  • causes of heart failure in dogs
  • types of  heart failure in dogs
  • treatments for heart failure in dogs
  • breeds of dogs that get heart failure most frequently
  • what are some symptoms to look out for to see if your dog has heart failure? 
  • do genes have an impact on causing heart failure in dogs?
  • how does diet affect heart failure in dogs?

When I was looking at the results that Google gave me, I looked at the first page only. This page was usually the most relevant. The resources that I used are all listed in the citations section.

I read all of my articles and then used the information from the articles to develop my presentation. 


Is Heart Failure Common in Dogs?

Heart failure is a common problem in dogs and, like people, can be caused by a variety of underlying diseases including heart valve degeneration, irregular heart rate and rhythm (arrhythmia), and heart muscle disease. In spite of the many types of heart diseases affecting dogs, most share common signs that can alert owners to a problem.

Heart failure is not common for one specific reason. Usually, there are multiple problems in a dog’s heart or body that pile up to become heart failure.

Heart failure generally is when the heart has trouble pumping blood to the rest of the body. Heart disease can affect one or both sides of the heart. It can progress slowly and sometimes take years to spot.


Types of Heart Failure in Dogs

Heart failure is normally referred to as Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)

There are two kinds of CHF:

  • Right Sided CHF: causes poor venous blood to return to the heart. Heart contracts or pumps, instead of the right ventricle pushing the blood through the lungs for oxygenation, some blood leaks through the tricuspid valve back into the right atrium. Fluid will fill the abdomen, interfering with the functions of the organs in this area.
  • Left sided CHF: when the heart contracts or pumps, instead of the left ventricle pushing the blood into the systemic circulation, some blood leaks through the mitral valve back into the left atrium and then it backs up into the lungs. Fluid then seeps into the lung tissue resulting in pulmonary edema.



Symptoms when the disease is first evident:

  • Coughing more than usual: mostly before sleep
  • Having a hard time breathing or exercising
  • Tiring easily
  • Pacing before bedtime and/or having trouble settling down to sleep
  • Increasing respiratory rate.

More symptoms as the disease grows:

  • A swollen stomach from fluid buildup
  • Fainting because of blocked blood flow to the brain
  • Change in tongue or gum colour (bluish-gray) because of poor oxygen flow.
  • Weight loss as your dog loses their ability to store healthy fat.



Dogs can be born with a heart defect that will later cause heart failure. Genes play a role and diet and exercise play roles, too. I am going to talk about gene and disease relate heart failure and diet-related heart failure because these are most common.

  1. Genes and Underlying Disease Linked to Heart Failure

Heart disease in dogs, like people, can be caused by genetic and a variety of underlying diseases including heart valve degeneration, irregular heart rate and rhythm, and heart muscle disease.

Heart failure in dogs can also be related to genes. There are about seven genes in the heart muscle and in blood cells that can help predict or diagnose whether a dog will have heart failure.  

In spite of the many types of heart diseases affecting dogs, most share common signs that can alert owners to a problem.

  1. Grain-free, legume rich diet

Patricia Wuest did a study with students at the University of California that found a link between grain-free, legume-rich dog diets and heart failure.

The study included 24 dogs with heart failure. 23 of the 24 dogs had been fed diets that were grain-free and legume-rich. The dogs’ food contained a lot of peas, lentils, other legume seeds or potatoes. These diets seem to lead to taurine deficiency. Taurine is an amino acid that dogs need to have healthy metabolism, digestion, and heart health.

The study concluded that some popular dog foods have very low nutrition because of the use of legumes. To produce taurine, dog sneed to eat a diet with meats.



There are many treatments for heart failure in dogs:

  • Medications to help the heart work and correct irregular heartbeats
  • Medications to slow fluid build-up in the lungs
  • Surgery to correct a torn valve or to insert a pacemaker to correct the heart beat
  • A commercial or prescription low-salt diet to help decrease fluid build-up in your dog's body
  • Limited activity or exercise to manage weight without putting too much strain on your dog's heart

Supplements may also be suggested by a veterinarian. Dogs with congestive heart failure may benefit from vitamin B supplements, taurine (an acid that supports brain development), or carnitine (an acid that helps turn fat into energy). Antioxidants like Coenzyme Q and vitamin E may also help.



I am not presenting data as this is a research project. My data is the information in the articles I read.



From this research, I learned that dogs get heart failure for multiple reasons. If I were to expand on this project I would test different types of dog foods to see which ones might contribute to health failure. I could also try to design a new food that would help prevent heart disease in dogs. Both options would help keep dogs safer from heart failure because they are eating the right food with the correct nutrition.