Heart Disease for dogs
Although some heart diseases like heartworm disease can be resolved, most congenital, degenerative, and infectious heart diseases are chronic and will continue to develop once diagnosed. Circulation of the blood is the primary function of the heart. When the heart is diseased, a domino effect begins; the heart cannot pump blood throughout the body effectively, so the body begins to retain sodium, which forces the kidneys to retain water. All this is an attempt to ensure that each beat of the heart, although weaker, will push through a greater amount of blood. Unfortunately, fluid retention ends up straining the heart further and may compromise the function of the kidneys and liver.
Proper veterinary care and medication are essential, as is providing appropriate nutrition. Both the condition and some of the required treatments may cause a dog’s appetite to suffer, preventing necessary nutrition from getting in to do its job. Normal commercial diets often contain 500 percent or more of the recommended daily allowance of sodium to make them more palatable. The commercial diets for dogs with heart disease reduce the amount of sodium and are often based more on grains than meat, so there’s not much flavor to interest your dog in returning to the bowl. To make matters worse, when a dog does eat, increased urination flushes necessary proteins, vitamins, and minerals out of the body.
To complement veterinary care, a proper diet must help replenish nutrients and antioxidants in quantities sufficient enough to counter the body’s inability to absorb and retain them effectively. Here are a few special concerns:
- Sodium should be reduced to correspond with the recommended daily allowance (.08 percent of the total dry matter weight) to help regulate fluid retention. In the recipes that follow, we’ll add flavor using foods like liver instead of salt.
- L-carnitine, a protein, helps metabolize fats for energy. Although the kidneys normally synthesize the L-carnitine required from other proteins (methionine and lysine), when sufficient levels of vitamins and minerals (B3, B6, C, and iron) are present, the kidneys are plenty busy filtering all the fluid in the body, and vitamins and minerals are not being kept in reserve. Your veterinarian may suggest supplementation, but we can also supplement by using one of the best sources of L-carnitine: red meat (¼ pound of ground beef supplies more than 100 mg of L-carnitine).
- Potassium helps to maintain the body’s balance of fluid and electrolytes. Low-sodium diets and the extra work of the kidneys often deplete potassium, so we’ll use potatoes, spinach, and the salt substitute potassium chloride to bring levels back up.
- Magnesium is essential to every cell in the body to maintain the balance of vitamins and minerals, enable enzyme functions, and regulate the composition of bones. Spinach is a great food source here as well.
- B vitamins are water-soluble and therefore often lost through urination, so we need to ensure an adequate supply is presented in the diet with foods like nutritional yeast, liver, and sardines.
- Balancing out nutritional needs is essential, so a vitamin supplement should be added after the food has been prepared. Including supplements as part of the process in making the food, rather than giving them as a daily occurrence, will be easier on both you and your pet.
- If your dog is overweight, reducing calories is also important. Excess weight causes the heart to pump blood through a lot of extra tissue and fat. When your dog trims down, each heartbeat becomes more effective. The chicken and rice meal is designed for dogs with a normal appetite who also needs to lose a few pounds. If your dog is less than enthusiastic about the food bowl, the beef and yams meal will entice him and pack nutrition in as little volume as possible so that every bite will count.
- The body’s use of water is troublesome, but with the proper diet and veterinary care, equilibrium can be achieved. Always be sure to have plenty of water available, preferably distilled or filtered to ensure purity. Tap water that is filtered through a water softener should not be used because of the sodium used in the filtration process.
- Many dogs have the unfortunate complication of both kidney disease and heart disease. If this is the case with your dog, follow the recipes for kidney disease instead.