Clinical heart disease is the stage of disease when a patient has or had signs attributable to cardiovascular disease. However, similar to human heart disease, determining when veterinary heart disease becomes clinical or progresses to heart failure is variable; it is often unclear exactly when preclinical heart disease evolves to clinical heart disease (see Definitions). Congestive heart failure (CHF) is easily recognized when there is radiographic evidence of pulmonary edema or cardiogenic effusion. Subtle signs of CHF (eg, pulmonary venous enlargement, exercise intolerance, weakness, lethargy) may be noted on thoracic radiographs or patient history.
Therapeutic planning for heart failure patients includes diagnosing the underlying heart disease and identifying the stage or class of heart disease.