Heart Problems in Dogs – Diet Can Make A Difference

Heart issues run in many breeds but all breeds can be susceptible.  Whether its a fluke or genetic or simply just a factor of old age, our canine companions can suffer from a myriad of heart problems – some which can take them from us far too early.  While the heart issues in a canine are different from those in humans in many ways, just as with humans, diet and supplementation can make a difference.

Did you know that some heart problems can be caused by poor nutrition?  Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM), perhaps

Cardiomyopathy most often affects large dogs – especially boxers, dobermans and great danes but can be found in smaller dogs as well

one of the most common of canine heart ailments, can result at least in part from a deficiency of certain amino acids in the diet, namely taurine and L carnitine.  Both are amino acids found in meat.  Since most commercial kibbles contain very little real meat, it is very possible that kibble fed dogs either get neither of these amino acids or only get them in a synthetic form.  Not good for heart health.

A poor diet can compromise a dog with a heart problem as well.  Most obviously, kibble isn’t always all that palatable.  Many dogs suffering from DCM or congestive heart failure suffer from a lack of appetite.  The food recommended by Hills for heart problems has an ingredient list headed with brewer’s rice, chicken by-product meal and whole grain corn.  Yum.  I wouldn’t eat it either.

So while there is no cure for DCM, heart murmurs, mitral valve disorders or the congestive heart failure these diseases can lead to, there are things you can do starting with diet.  Feed your dog plenty of protein in the form of raw meat.  It will give them the amino acids that they need to slow some of the deterioration that is happening.  If you can get raw hearts, beef being the most nutritionally dense with the longest amino acid chains, do so.  Most raw fed dogs are great eaters – they get a variety of real food every single day.  Don’t let a lack of appetite in your dog make him weaker than the underlying heart problem is already making him.  Feed him plenty of variety concentrating on things that he particularly likes.  Keep him eating, keep him strong.  If he still doesn’t eat well, give him small frequent meals and get SOMETHING in him.

Sodium should be restricted in dogs with heart issues.  While it isn’t as important as it is in humans, moderate sodium restriction is still indicated in dogs in the early stages of heart failure and becomes more important as the disease progresses.  Most diets of commercial kibble are relatively high in sodium – avoid them.  Remember that protein is GOOD and is always necessary for a dog with heart problems.  Avoid feeding prescription diets that reduce protein levels.  Again, feeding a diet of real food, real meat, will give your dog the all important protein that he needs.

Heart problems aren’t a death sentence – dogs like this one with DCM can still lead active lives with our help

Supplements can be helpful as well.  If you can’t find a good source of raw heart, supplementing with taurine from a whole food source can be a viable alternative.  Carnitine can also be supplemented but try to avoid it in synthetic forms instead feed more beef where possible.  Fish oil, B-Complex vitamins and CoQ10 can all be helpful for heart health as well. (This information and more can be found at www.dogaware.com).

Always consult your veterinarian and cardiologist in all things where heart issues are concerned.  Chances are that your dog is on some pretty serious medications and ensuring that you do nothing that could harm the work of those medications is incredibly important.  Ask questions, advocate for your dog.  A diagnosis of DCM or other heart issues can be a devastating one but its not always a quick death sentence.  You can help your dog to stay comfortable and healthy by taking a pro-active stance and doing your research.  Don’t give up – they wouldn’t give up on you!  Beat those odds and surprise those doctors by keeping your dog with you for as long as possible!