Heart disease in pets can be a scary thing for their owners. Fortunately, many forms of cardiac illness can be treated and managed successfully.
The treatment of heart disease in dogs varies, depending on your pet’s particular case and your veterinarian’s experience. However, there is a general standard of treatment for dog heart disease. Certain medications, supplements and adjustments to lifestyle are often the mainstay therapies for heart disease. These treatments are meant to improve your pet’s quality and longevity of life.
Your vet may begin by prescribing your pup an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor (or ACE inhibitor). This medication helps reduce blood pressure and prevent the restriction of blood vessels. An ACE inhibitor is often prescribed as soon as any heart enlargement is noticed. Vasodilators also help relax the blood vessels, decreasing the pressure on the heart and allowing it to pump blood more effectively in the right direction.
Diuretics are another commonly prescribed treatment for your pup’s heart disease. Diuretics, such as furosemide, help the kidneys draw fluid out of areas like the lungs and chest, excreting it as urine. Spironolactone is potassium-sparing diuretic your veterinarian may also commonly choose to prescribe your pup.
Positive inotropes, often pimobendan, are used to help increase the strength of the heart’s contractions. This moves blood throughout the body more efficiently without the heart going into overdrive.
Your veterinarian may choose to use some, all or none of these medications to treat your pup. There are many other medications used for treatment of heart disease in dogs, but always remember that your vet knows your pooch best. That being said, he/she will certainly agree that there are many additional ways you can help heal your pet’s heart at home.
Taurine supplementation is common and very helpful in especially treatment of heart disease in dogs. While most dogs produce enough of this amino acid on their own, there are certain breeds (such as Newfoundlands, Golden or Labrador Retrievers, and American Cocker Spaniels) that sometimes experience deficiencies. If taurine deficiency is the cause for your pup’s CHF, taurine supplementation can greatly improve, and sometimes even reverse the condition.
For dogs who do not have a deficiency, supplementing taurine can still help promote healthy muscle in the heart and support stronger function.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids (read: Fish Oil) are an absolute must for any animal battling heart disease. These fatty acids help keep your dog's blood vessels healthy, and help the body repair damaged tissue. A high potency fish oil will also help reduce any inflammation your pup is experiencing, helping them heal and feel much better.
If your dog has any form of heart disease, it is recommended that their exercise be restricted. Too much cardio can overwork their already stressed heart. This doesn’t mean Fido has to be restricted to his kennel, or even the indoors. Short, slow walks are usually ok for these guys. You can also let them out in the yard to stretch their legs, as long as they don’t get too excited chasing squirrels (or furry siblings). You still want your pup to move around enough to stay healthy and fit, as obesity is a common underlying cause of heart disease. If you are unsure of how much exercise your pup can manage, ask your vet.
Diet and Weight Management
A healthy, balanced diet is the most important key to your pet’s health. Healthy weight management cannot be stressed enough for dogs with heart disease. Both being underweight and overweight is dangerous
to your pet’s health.
Obesity in your pet will put unnecessary strain on their body, especially their heart. The heart has to work much harder to make blood flow through all those extra pounds. Extra weight can put pressure on the chest, making it difficult for your pet to breathe, and for their heart to pump properly.
Alternatively, heart disease can often lead to weight loss and muscle wasting in dogs. Making sure your pup is taking in enough calories, and adding a quality fish oil to their diet, can help combat both of these things. Sometimes, adding a healthy fat like coconut oil can help increase the caloric value of your pet’s diet, without having to force-feed them a higher quantity of food.
For dogs with heart disease, a low-sodium diet is generally recommended. For those of you wondering, The Original CrockPET Diet is both fully balanced and low-sodium. It’s also important to keep a healthy level of animal protein in your pet’s diet (to help with taurine intake), unless they also have kidney disease. There is a version of The CrockPET Diet available for your pet in any of these situations.
The Best Treatment is Prevention
As many of you already know, the food that goes into your pet’s body (and yours, too) is the greatest key to good health and disease prevention. By helping your pet eat healthy foods and maintain a healthy lifestyle, you can prevent a great array of diseases - including heart disease. So whether your pet is already battling heart disease (or any other illness), or they are the picture of health, it’s never too late to help them reach their highest health potential.
Remember - your pet’s best health begins in the bowl!