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Pericardial Effusion

Treating the Effects Of Congestive Heart Failure

Relatively uncommon in small animals, pericardial effusion is a life-threatening condition commonly seen in dogs, especially large and giant breeds, and cats. This pericardial disease is characterized by an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the pericardial sac and is caused by congestive heart failure. If your pet is in a state of emergency and exhibiting the signs of this grave condition, let Animal ER Care in Colorado Springs, Colorado, provide the necessary emergency care to save their life.

Medical Condition

Pericardial effusion is a serious condition that can result in death. If the intrapericardial pressure exceeds the right atrium pressure, impairment of the ventricular filling and acute compression of the heart may develop. This ailment is caused by the following conditions:

• Cardiac Hemangiosarcoma
• Congenital Or Acquired Disease
• Congestive Heart Failure
• Left Atrial Rupture
• Peritoneal Pericardial Diaphragmatic Hernia
• Tumors

Child Owner with His Pet


This condition can be detected during a medical examination through the presence of a weak pulse, fast heart rate, and muffled heart sounds. The jugular veins may be distended, and the mucous membranes are often pale. The common signs of pericardial effusion are:

• Respiratory Difficulty
• Lethargy
• Reduced Appetite
• Abdominal Distention


Thoracic radiographs are an incredibly effective method for diagnosing pericardial effusion because it portrays a clear globoid cardiac silhouette. An electrocardiogram (ECG) can support the initial diagnosis. An ultrasonography is effective for detecting small amounts of pericardial effusion in the heart sac.


The initial treatment for this condition is pericardiocentesis. This is a procedure where a needle is inserted through your pet's chest wall and into the pericardial sac to remove the accumulated fluid. Only a local anesthetic, systemic sedation, or pain medication is required for the procedure. Follow-up treatments for this procedure include stabilization and supportive care such as IV fluids. We then direct our efforts to managing the specific cause of the pericardial effusion. For example, if cardiac hemangiosarcoma is determined to be the cause, then chemotherapy and tumor resection therapies are required.

Emergency Care

Pericardial effusion can be discovered through the treatment of other emergency situations such as if blood or fluid is found in the distended abdomen. Surgery may be required if your pet exhibits signs of this condition. We perform diagnostic testing to confirm the diagnosis and then perform the proper blood work to safely anesthetize for surgery. Throughout the procedure, we carefully monitor your pet's vital signs. Once stabilized, your pet can go home, and we will provide you with detailed after-care instructions and required follow-up care.

Domestic Dog