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What is Fluid Buildup in the Sac Surrounding the Heart?

In the normal anatomy of a canine, there is the presence of a very thin membrane surrounding the heart which serves as protection. A small amount of fluid is required to act as a lubricant; it is abnormal and dangerous when fluid builds up continually (and in many cases rapidly), causing the heart to become enlarged. When this happens, there can be compression of the esophagus, bronchi or lungs. Intracardiac pressure, affecting the heart itself, leads to decreased filling of the heart, decreased cardiac output and subsequently, shock to the system. Examples of causes for pleural effusion may be infection or right-sided heart failure. Prognosis varies and it must be considered a life-threatening condition.

When there is an accumulation of fluid within the pericardial sac, it is known as pericardial effusion. How much this abnormality will affect your pet will depend on the rate of fluid flow into the sac as well as the amount of fluid that accumulates.

Fluid Buildup in the Sac Surrounding the Heart Average Cost

From 51 quotes ranging from $2,500 - $8,000

Average Cost

$5,000

Symptoms of Fluid Buildup in the Sac Surrounding the Heart in Dogs

Symptoms can evolve to a dangerous level whereby the situation becomes life threatening. These are the signs you may see in your pet, depending on the extent of the effusion.

  • Loss of appetite or willingness to eat
  • Lethargy
  • Fainting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Weight loss
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Pale mucus membranes
  • Abdominal distention
  • Collapse

Types

Fluid buildup in the sac surrounding the heart can happen due to congenital illnesses (present at birth) or due to acquired diseases that develop throughout life. The effusion can be chronic and of a progressive nature, or acute which means the event came on suddenly.

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Causes of Fluid Buildup in the Sac Surrounding the Heart in Dogs

Some of the recognized reasons for pericardial effusion are:

  • Tumor
  • Bacterial infection
  • Fungal infection
  • Migrating foreign body such as Foxtail
  • Mitral valve disease which causes left atrial rupture; small breeds are predisposed
  • Coagulation disorders
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Congenital hernia
  • Idiopathic hemorrhagic pericardial effusion; large and giant breeds are prone

It is documented that German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers are predisposed to a fluid buildup in the pericardial sac.

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Diagnosis of Fluid Buildup in the Sac Surrounding the Heart in Dogs

The physical examination performed by the veterinarian will include listening to the heart and taking the pulse, two indicators of the heart’s performance. The pulse of your dog will most likely be poor or low if he is in a state of advanced pericardial effusion. The heart sounds that the veterinarian is trying to distinguish will most likely be of a muffled nature because of the volume of fluid buildup. If there is right side heart failure, there may be jugular vein distortion apparent during the exam.

Standard tests that will be ordered are the blood chemical profile, complete blood count, and urinalysis. Tests that will give further diagnostic leads are radiographs. Abdominal x-rays could show fluid in the abdomen as well, and thoracic x-rays  can show the heart size and signs of metastatic disease if this is the case. An echocardiogram is a type of ultrasound that can clearly identify fluid buildup and determine present functioning state of the heart, and can show other problems such as a hernia. An electrocardiograph will tell the veterinarian the state of electrical activity in your pet’s heart.

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Treatment of Fluid Buildup in the Sac Surrounding the Heart in Dogs

The treatment for pericardial effusion is pretty straightforward in that the essential need is to remove the excess fluid from the sac surrounding the heart. However, as simple as it sounds, it can be complicated if the amount of fluid has caused further developments and damage to the body of your dog. Cardiac tamponade for example, is when the fluid causes compression to the heart, a very severe situation resulting from the fluid buildup. Right side heart failure can occur, which promotes the accumulation of fluid in the abdomen. The removal of fluid is done by a procedure called a pericardiocentesis. A needle or catheter is inserted into the sac around the heart, aspirating the liquid. In cases where there is fluid in the abdomen as well, this will be taken out in addition.

Some canines will need surgery if the effusion returns. A pericardiectomy involves making a window in the sac which allows the continuous flow of liquid to move into the chest cavity. It should be noted that both of these procedures can have a good to poor prognosis, depending on the body’s response to the treatment. Of course, as with any procedure involving the heart especially, there are risks and the possibility of failure. In the instance of an infection, parasitic invasion, or underlying disease process, the appropriate measures in the form of antibiotics or medication will be addressed.

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Recovery of Fluid Buildup in the Sac Surrounding the Heart in Dogs

There are chances that your pet may not recover from a heart procedure. However, it depends on the cause. Parasitic invasion, infection, and hernia can have a successful recovery depending on the extent of the problem. If your beloved pet has a tumor that is slow growing, he may have a fair to good prognosis. If your pet has pericardial effusion that keeps returning, the situation may be described as poor to guarded because continual effusion can change the pliability of the heart sac making it vulnerable to disease. Your veterinarian will do her best to prolong the life of your pet as long as the quality of life we all want for them is there.

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Fluid Buildup in the Sac Surrounding the Heart Average Cost

From 51 quotes ranging from $2,500 - $8,000

Average Cost

$5,000

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Fluid Buildup in the Sac Surrounding the Heart Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

dog-name-icon

Fifi

dog-breed-icon

Shih Tzu

dog-age-icon

16 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Tired, Slow, Crying/Whimpering...

My dog was 16, almost 17 when I had her put down due to fluid build up. She was on 3 diff pills and one was lasix and forgot the other two names. One started with a V and came in an orange box. She was on these pills for about 10 months and was getting worse.... I didn't have the money to get the fluid drained more than a couple times. She had went to ER bc she passed out etc and that's how I found out about her fluid around her heart. I did everything I could to help her, but her quality of life seemed to be going. I do wonder if I were wealthy and could have the fluids drained often if she would have lived longer and been happier. Today is the day she passed two years ago and I her guilt about putting her down... The vet said the mess she was on were serious and it's like puttin a bannaid on something just to keep her going. The vet that put her down said she looked like she wasn't happy and friends too!!! I'm wondering if the mess was messing up here organs and I did the right thing or if I just could have her fluid drained more often would she have had a good enough quality of life to kee her going and not put her down. Did I do the right thing! ? I didn't want it to be too late or too early 💔

Aug. 18, 2018

Fifi's Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

I think that you did the right thing. When dogs in heart failure get to the point where they have to have fluid drained from their chest, they are starting to suffer, and that fluid can't be removed forever. At some point they can't breath, and they can lose enough fluid that way to affect the rest of their body. It seems that you did a kind thing for Fifi by letting her go, and finances would not have made a difference in her situation.

Aug. 18, 2018

My beloved 10 year old silky terrier has overcome disc issues and diabetes and was always a fighter. Yesterday he wouldn't eat at all and just laid in his bed for 7 straight hours just going outside for a few steps to relieve himself. I thought he just had a stomach ache again but my vet was doing an ultrasound and found a lot of fluid around the heart which she said was a tumor. I asked if it was time to let him go and she said yes. I am of course heartbroken but they have done a great job of keeping him alive and healthy the last few years. She said she couldn't even hear his heart beat because of the buildup. I guess I want to make myself feel better that she made the right decision to put him down?

Aug. 24, 2018

Michael P.

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Barkley

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Saint Bernard

dog-age-icon

6 Years

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Low Energy
Fluid On Lungs And Around Heart
Temp Ranging From 101 To 105
Was Previously Coughing, Sneezing, Gag
Has Appetite Back And Drinking

Barkley became very lethargic 5 days ago and didn't eat or drink for 2 days. Vet kept him for observation and did blood work. Lungs were raspy but blood work was all pretty boring. Chest xray revealed fluid on lungs and around heart. They also revealed atleast one mass in neck/throat area. He was coughing,sneezing,gagging and drooling up until 2 days ago. Vet wanted me to euthanize him on Monday. He had a lasix shot and continued prednisone and antibiotics. He regained appetite and felt a little better for two days. Temp is normal now on antibiotics and prednisone only but breathing has started to get heavy and fast again I'm guessing due to fluid building up again. We're waiting for referral to diagnostics. Are we fighting a losing battle? Are his meds what he should be on while waiting? Prednisone vs anti inflammatory?

June 18, 2018

Barkley's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Without examining Barkley myself it is difficult to weigh in to say whether it is worth visiting a Specialist or not, however in the meantime you should continue with the current course of treatment prescribed by your Veterinarian until you see the Specialist; it isn’t good to keep changing treatment leading up to a Specialist appointment. Prednisone is used to treat inflammatory conditions due to its properties so there would be no issue there, for now wait for the Specialist appointment and see what they have to say; if there is a worsening of symptoms you should return to your Veterinarian for an examination. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 19, 2018

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Misty

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Jack Russell Terrier

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12 Years

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargic
Laboured Breathing , Lethargic

My jack russell had problems breathing, very lethargic,sick and not drinking. Vet diagnosed an irregular heart beat and a build up of fluid at the bottom of the heart and lungs. She is 1w years old and on a low dose ofnsteroids in the summer for being allergic to almost everything.

April 20, 2018

Misty's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

I'm sorry to hear that this is happening to Misty. She may need to see a cardiologist to determine what is going on with her heart, and if there is any treatment available for her. I hope that she is okay.

April 20, 2018

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Rizzo

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German Shepherd

dog-age-icon

8 Years

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Critical severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Fluid Around Heart

Rizzo was diagnosed with fluid around the heart when we took her in for continual vomiting. She was prescribed anti-nausea medication and we were told that she "could" have cancer. We took it upon ourselves (after looking online for causes) to have another vet run a stool sample.....took over a week to come back normal. I don't know what to do because she was 94 pounds and has lost at least 20 pounds in 3 weeks. She cant keep anything down....even the pills. HELP DOC!!!

Jan. 25, 2018

Rizzo's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. Without seeing Rizzo, I am unfortunately unable to offer much assistance in what might be going on with her. I'm not sure what your original veterinarian saw that made them think that she might have cancer, or where they thought that caner might be. Fluid around the heart is not normal, and needs to be treated. If she is losing weight that quickly, and continues to vomit, she needs to have treatment, I agree with you. It would be a good idea to either have a recheck with one of the veterinarians that you have seen, or ask for a referral to a specialist if you don't feel that her health concerns are being addressed completely. Whether the heart condition is causing her weight loss, or it is related to another cause, you need to find out what is going on with her. I hope that she is okay.

Jan. 26, 2018

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Harley

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Flat-Coated Retriever Mix

dog-age-icon

10 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

My 70lb retriever mix went to ER on Sunday. Pericardial effusion, and idiopathic effusion. No masses found. The sac was drained. All tests came back negative for cancer, however blood was found in the fluid. No abdominal ultrasounds or x-rays were done. He's home now and recovering. Follow up with vet 2 days later: did tri-view chest x-rays, which showed some fluid on the left front of his heart. The ER notes don't mention that they didn't retrieve all the fluid at that time. Vitals are still good, however, he is not energetic & has difficulty getting his back lets to want to work. Meaning getting up from a laying position is difficult. He walks ok, once he's standing. This is new since the ER. There is normal evacuation and voiding, though, just no stamina and increased difficulty in getting up. He was a very "peppy" dog only a few hours before the "attack", so, this is dis-heartening.

Nov. 30, 2017

Harley's Owner


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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

The most common cause of pericardial effusion is due to cancer, but if no masses were detected then possible causes may include infections or inflammation; physical drainage or identification and treatment of the underlying cause are common methods of management. However, in idiopathic cases where a cause cannot be determined a pericardial window may be performed to allow drainage of fluid into the thoracic cavity. I cannot comment or think of a reason why Harley is having trouble getting up, but should be evaluated again by your Veterinarian to monitor progress. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Nov. 30, 2017

I'm feeling like a nervous, first-time mom ! At age 10, before this event, he was in very good health (well, APPEARED and acted in very good health), would the window be a viable thing to do? I realize with older people, sedation, trauma, etc, cause a slow recuperation. Am I just "rushing" his recovery time?

Nov. 30, 2017

Harley's Owner


Oh, and the echo-cardiogram at the ER was good. Blood counts good, glucose, etc, good.

Nov. 30, 2017

Harley's Owner


Thank you. Could there have been damage to the heart from this event? In the diagnosis from ER (he stayed one night there), tamponade (?) was a word that was used. All ultra sounds, fluid evaluation, and x-ray showed no obvious cancer. Once he gets himself up, he's good to walk. He wants to get excited about play with a ball, but, has energy to get to it & then fast walk once around the sofa, then lays down again (keeping the ball, lol). If he lays down for any length of time, getting up is especially slow. All new. Would an abdominal x-ray be worthwhile? That would then mean that his entire body would have been imaged. I am leaning toward the window idea. My vet is talking to a surgeon about it. If he's cancer-free, I'm hoping that would help his heart function immensely and also get the rest of him "moving" again. By the way, appetite still very good and digestion good - void & evacuation good.

Nov. 30, 2017

Harley's Owner

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Scruffles

dog-breed-icon

Maltese

dog-age-icon

12 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Labored Breathing, Pain, Weakness,

Our beloved Maltese went to the new vet for a routine allergy shot of cytopoint. Within 6 hours of getting the shot, he had lots of inflammation and threw up yellow phlegm as well as went diarrhea three or four times in a row. This was followed by intense labored breathing and he paced at night and cried in discomfort. so I brought him back to the new veterinarian and she thought he had an infection. I told her he was bloated so she gave him antibiotics and gas medicine for his stomach. Four days after that he showed no signs of improvement and his breathing was still very labored. So I took him to another veterinarian who immediately took an x-ray and found him to have fluid around the heart which was impinging into his lungs and esophagus. I was referred to a specialist who gave him an ultrasound and an echocardiogram which he said showed a mass within the right ventricle at the AV junction. It measured 17 x 19 mm and was hypo Echoic. There was a large amount of pericardial effusion and tamponade also a mild amount of plural effusion. He told me the prognosis was grave and he might only live 1 to 3 months with intermittent removal of fluid. We Took him to yet another veterinarian for her opinion and were told that she would euthanize it if it was her dog as the pain would worsen and he would surely die. So two weeks from the initial acute pericardial effusion, our dog was euthanized. My question is, shouldnt The specialist who did the ultrasound have given us options regarding having a biopsy or removal? We were told that a pericardiocentesis could be done however the dog would still surely die within 1-3 months. My question is as follows: was the location of the mass in an area that was not operable? Or might the tumor have been biopsied? I can’t sleep at night because I feel like he wasn’t given a fighting chance... We feel terrible

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Dutches

dog-breed-icon

Pit bull

dog-age-icon

7 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Larthargic
Larthargic, Vomit, No Appetite, Whi

My Boston Terrier just turned seven years old. I woke up one day and she did not want to get up from the floor I gave her water and she was drinking it very slowly I then refilled it 2 more times and then she laid down again and isn’t want to go for her usual walk. I chk her gums and they were white so I took her to the E.R and within 5 minutes the doctors came back to tell me that she has fluid in her heart and they had to drain it and I had to take her to see a cardiologist, or I had to put her down. Because I just lost my job and the cost just to remove the fluid was almost $2,000 after asking the Doctor 3X if she was sure if it was a tumor she said most likely but the fluid was going to keep coming back. I decided to put her down. That was 2 days ago and now I’m wondering if it was the right decision or could I have more test done. How did the doctor know in less then 5 minutes she had fluid in her heart?

Fluid Buildup in the Sac Surrounding the Heart Average Cost

From 51 quotes ranging from $2,500 - $8,000

Average Cost

$5,000

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