Heart failure is a progressive condition that is characterized by the cardiovascular system’s inability to function optimally and the heart’s inability to pump effectively. The result is that your furry sidekick has dramatically curbed his level of physical activity. To help improve his failing heart’s condition and function, and his quality of life, a number of cardiac drugs are available. Heart failure is often treated with a combination of two or more medications, and one of the drugs often prescribed is digoxin.
Digoxin is a digitalis glycoside that acts as a positive inotrope. An inotrope affects contractibility of the heart. By elevating the calcium concentration in the cells of the heart’s muscles, the heart’s contractions are strengthened for improved blood flow. The medication also slows your dog’s heart rate, which can be helpful in regulating abnormal heart rhythms. Despite the drug’s beneficial effects, its use must be monitored very closely by you and your veterinarian for potentially dangerous effects of toxicity.
Digoxin is filtered for elimination from your dog’s system through his kidneys. Your veterinarian will want to run periodic blood chemistry panels to monitor your dog’s kidney values. If these values reveal renal disease, the digoxin dose will be reduced or an alternate medication may be used instead. Regular blood screenings will also confirm that the level of digoxin in your dog’s bloodstream remains within safe parameters. Be sure to alert your veterinarian immediately if your dog starts vomiting, showing a decrease in appetite or experiencing diarrhea, lethargy or depression. These can be signs of digoxin toxicity and must be addressed without delay.
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