Does your heart swell with love when you look at your dog? It should—and it should also remind you to consider their heart health! As a dog owner, one of the most important things you can do to ensure your pup’s wellbeing is to promote their heart health. Here, nutrition plays a critical role.
The right diet can go a long way toward helping your dog maintain a healthy heart throughout their life. Here’s what you need to know about implementing a heart-healthy diet for dogs so that your playful pup can truly thrive.
Understanding canine heart health
Before we dive into the importance of nutrition in promoting good cardiovascular health, it’s crucial to understand common conditions related to the canine heart.
Dogs, like humans, can develop various heart conditions, regardless of their breed, size or age. Some of these conditions include dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), mitral valve disease and congestive heart failure (CHF). These conditions can lead to serious health risks and will impact the health and wellbeing of your pooch if left unchecked and untreated.
Beyond understanding these conditions, dog lovers should also be aware of the risk factors for heart disease in their four-legged friends. These include breed predispositions, age and weight and lifestyle factors, such as a lack of physical activity. It’s a smart idea to talk with your vet about your furry friend and whether they’re at an elevated risk of developing a heart condition.
The role of nutrition in canine heart health
Nutrition plays a significant role in promoting a healthy heart for your dog. It starts with the food they’re eating every day. When selecting the right food for heart health, there are a few factors to keep in mind—namely, quality ingredients. Look for dog food that contains high-quality proteins such as chicken, turkey or fish as the primary ingredient. You should also look for dog foods with low sodium content, as a high-salt diet can make heart conditions worse.
Essential nutrients are also important for a healthy heart.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and help keep blood pressure and cholesterol levels in check.
- Coenzyme Q10: CoQ10 is a natural antioxidant that supports heart health. It aids in energy production by preventing damage to cells.
- Herbal supplements: Asian ginseng, hawthorn and milk thistle are some of the herbs that are beneficial to a dog’s cardiovascular system. These ingredients work together to support heart function and reduce inflammation.
Consult with your veterinarian to determine the right amounts of each nutrient for your dog based on their weight, age, breed, etc.
Creating a heart-healthy diet plan for your pooch
The foundation of heart health lies in the diet. A dog’s diet should be balanced and rich in heart-healthy nutrients. Aside from choosing high-quality, whole foods and exploring supplements, here are a few things you should keep in mind while creating a heart-healthy diet plan for your dog.
While macronutrients are critical for overall health, inappropriate levels—such as high-protein diets—can put a strain on the heart. Your dog needs protein for growth, development and repair, but should get it in moderation. Talk to your vet to determine optimal protein levels for your dog.
Healthy fats—such as fatty acids found in fish oil—also help in the maintenance of heart health. The right balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids helps to reduce inflammation and support the heart’s health.
Complex carbohydrates like whole grains are a good source of energy for your dog, but make sure they’re eaten in moderation to minimize excessive weight gain.
Incorporate heart-healthy micronutrients
A dog’s diet should include heart-healthy foods like lean meats and fish. Chicken, turkey and fish like salmon contain vital nutrients that your dog needs, such as lean protein, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12.
Your dog should also eat a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables like carrots, broccoli and spinach. They’re a great source of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. For fiber, feed your dog whole grains like oats and brown rice.
Manage portion sizes and feeding frequency
Portion management and feeding frequency are crucial in maintaining a healthy weight, which is also beneficial for your dog’s heart health. Feeding your dog smaller, more frequent meals prevents overeating and spikes in blood sugar levels.
Regular, controlled feeding will also help with lifestyle factors that can affect heart health. For example, you might feed your dog after a walk in the morning, which gets their tail wagging when they see the leash as the first thing to start the day!
Protect your pup’s heart health
Good nutrition can protect your furry friend’s heart health. Before introducing any dietary changes or supplements into your dog’s diet, contact your vet. Working with your vet to develop a heart-healthy nutrition plan is a step in the right direction to keep your furry friend healthy and happy. The next time you look at them and your heart swells, you can take comfort in the fact that their heart is also filled with joy!