The vet says your dog has heart failure, and you assume it means death is imminent. After all, if the heart “fails,” death ensues.
Don’t panic. The term heart failure, short for congestive heart failure, means the heart is failing gradually, not that it has stopped working altogether.
A normal canine (or human) heart pumps blood to all the body’s tissues. But if the heart is losing strength, blood goes in the wrong direction, causing fluid buildup. If it’s right-sided congestive heart failure, the fluid buildup occurs in the abdomen, adversely affecting all the organs there. If it’s left-sided, the fluid buildup happens in the lungs. That’s called pulmonary edema.
None of this is good, of course. It makes it difficult to breathe properly, and a dog will eventually succumb. But treatment protocols for congestive heart failure in dogs have greatly improved, and a pet diagnosed with this condition can live relatively comfortably for months to years.