A dog with any kind of heart disease needs a vet’s care. There are still things you can do to help your dog have a good quality of life though. Keeping her weight down is a big help, if she’s overweight, her heart has a lot more work to do. A slimmer’s diet is what’s needed and will benefit joints and bones too.
Small meals – Try feeding smaller meals, a portion of lean meat or fish is full of goodness without being too fattening. Commercial dog food usually has only a bit of meat – the rest is filler. Read the labels before you buy. We think that fresh food is best for dogs with heart problems. Well, it’s really best for all dogs if you can manage to get it.
How can you tell if your dog is overweight? If you run your hands over her sides you should be able to feel her ribs easily. Your vet will help with a weight loss plan and a weigh-in on the scales is a regular part of a vet check up. You can monitor your dog’s progress each time you visit the surgery.
It’s best to feed your dog several smaller meals than one big dinner. A huge bowl full of doggy dinner can put a strain on the heart. Two or three little meals, maybe a smaller dish will help and it will keep her hunger pangs at bay without putting a strain on her heart and digestion.
Oily fish – Fish oils are good for dogs with heart problems. Giving a dog omega-3 fatty acids can help to lower blood pressure and reduce blood clots. You could feed fresh or tinned fish – mackerel is good because it’s not an endangered species and is fairly inexpensive. Or you can get capsules from your vet or pet shops.
Check the salt – If you want to feed commercial pet food check the salt level. Dogs with heart problems need to be especially careful about the amount of salt in their diet. Check the salt in everything you feed.
Exercise – The heart is a muscle and dogs normally benefit from exercise to keep it working at peak capacity. Don’t overdo it though, build up gradually and ask your vet for advice, especially if beginning any new exercise programme. Keep to walking on the flat and watch your dog closely for sign’s she’s had enough. We let dogs with heart problems take us for a walk!
Brushing teeth – Keep teeth clean – there’s been a lot of research showing the connection between bad teeth and heart disease in dogs. It ‘s t he same in humans. Bacteria gets into the area around the gums and then enters the circulation, settling on the heart valve. It can eventually scar the area. What can you do to prevent this? Keeping the dog’s teeth is the only answer – give raw carrots to eat, hard rubber toys to chew and brush the teeth daily. Doggy tooth brushes and tooth paste in a variety of meaty flavours is available. A sprinkle of “Plaque Off”on your dog’s food is worth a try. Many people swear by it and have dogs with gleaming teeth into old age. It’s said to remove tartar and plaque in three to six weeks. We’ve tried it and it does make a significant difference.
Vitamins – Giving your dog a vitamin supplement can help. Antioxidants can help neutralize harmful molecules in the cells. Ask your vet for advice. We give our dogs cod liver oil supplements and they do very well on them. The really senior-seniors get a sprinkle of wheat germ oil too.