Has anyone ever thought that the Grinch might have had a serious medical issue when his heart started growing… THREE TIMES THE NORMAL SIZE!? Unfortunately, it is a serious medical condition and is a common indicator of various heart diseases. And these various heart diseases can lead to congestive heart failure.
Congestive heart failure is fluid retention due to severe heart disease. Now, as you may know, there are two sides to a heart. Fluid retains in the lungs or pleural cavity when the heart disease is on the left side. When the right side of the heart is diseased, fluid tends to retain in the belly or pleural cavity. This occurs because the pressure in the veins and capillaries draining into the diseased side of the heart, increasing to the point that fluid leaks out of the veins and capillaries.
Symptoms of congestive heart failure on the left side may include shortness of breath, exercise intolerance, coughing, and increased respiratory rate. Symptoms for the right side may include swelling of the abdomen, inappetence, and difficulty breathing.
To diagnose anything involving the heart, chest radiographs are the best place to start. It can tell you if the heart is enlarged (like the Grinch when he got all in his feelings, but it was really cardiomegaly from heart disease… that’s just my theory). Not only do you need chest radiographs to diagnose, noticing the clinical signs plays a big role in diagnostics as well.
As for the treatment, it depends on the cause of congestive heart failure. Sometimes, the underlying issue, if structural, can fix the CHF and the other issues permanently. If it is a true case of CHF, the animal will most likely be put on a diuretic which decreases blood volume/pressure which then forces the fluid out of the accumulation area. There are also a few other medications the vet may put your pet on, but something you can do at home monitors the resting respiratory rate.
By Rose Quince, RVT