If your dog has been diagnosed with heart disease, there could be ways of managing the condition through nutrition. Today, our Pico Rivera vet specialists share tips on feeding your pooch a low-sodium diet to help treat heart disease.

Are there foods that can help my dog with heart disease?

If you or someone you know has ever been told by a doctor to reduce sodium intake, there could be several reasons for this, the majority of which have to do with improving heart health. The same goes for your pet. If your dog has heart disease, your veterinarian may recommend a low-sodium diet to both improve your pet's longevity and reduce the number of heart medications required.

There are two ways to ensure your dog consumes low sodium while still receiving adequate nutrition: specially formulated dog food or preparing/following a low-sodium diet at home. If pet parents choose to prepare their pet's diet at home, they must ensure their dog receives the vitamins and nutrients he or she requires for optimal health. This is especially important in the case of dogs with heart disease and other conditions.

Heart Healthy Home-Cooked Meals for Dogs

Home cooking is appealing to some pet parents for a variety of reasons, but as it requires a great deal of careful portioning and ensuring that there are no vitamin, mineral, or other nutritional deficiencies, we do not recommend it without close veterinary supervision. If you choose to cook at home for your dog, it is vital to clear your recipes with your vet first. A well-meaning gesture could ultimately hurt your four-legged friend in the long run.

With that said, here are some good choices for home-cooked meals:

Watermelon & Tomatoes: Both contain vitamins and minerals, such as lycopene, which can help the heart by reducing free radical damage. There is some disagreement about the use of the amino acid citrulline in dogs (whether it is used or not in a dog's body), but watermelon contains this amino acid which can help move blood through the body. Do not feed the seeds to dogs!

Fatty Fish like Salmon DSardines, & Mackerel: There are numerous advantages to feeding your dog fish, the most important of which is reduced inflammation. Cod liver oil should be added to a dog's diet with caution because it contains high levels of Vitamins A and D, both of which have safe upper limits for dogs. Adding canned sardines in water to your dog's commercial diet or feeding a few pieces of salmon are both excellent ways to provide a source of these nutrient-dense fish.

Green, Leafy Veggies: Dark green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, and swiss chard can be added to your dog's diet and have numerous health benefits aside from the heart! Make sure to steam or puree the vegetables before feeding them to your dog.

Specialty Commercial Foods For Dogs With Heart Disease

Heart disease in dogs is frequently associated with chronic kidney disease (CKD). Specific therapeutic nutrient profiles found in some foods can help dogs with these conditions. These must be obtained by prescription from your veterinarian, so it is critical to collaborate with your veterinarian to ensure your dog is eating the proper food.

Your vet will ensure that the food they recommend to your pet addresses the following concerns:

Phosphorus: This is mainly a concern for dogs with CKD, but as it cooccurs with heart disease it should still be addressed in your dog's diet. Phosphorus should be limited to 0.2% - 0.52% DM.

Potassium: Your dog's potassium serum levels should be monitored, but a good base level of potassium is 0.4% - 0.52% DM. If your pet is on certain kinds of diuretic drugs, they may require supplementation.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA could help heart muscle cells. While no optimal dose of omega-3 acids has been determined yet, your vet can advise you on a supplement that will be easily absorbed by your dog's body. 

In general, a good nutritional plan for a dog with heart disease is low in sodium and chloride while providing the other nutrients your dog requires. Restrict-CKDTM, Royal Canin® Veterinary Diet Canine Cardiac, Hill's® Prescription Diet® h/d®, and Rayne Clinical NutritionTM are some brands that carry specialty food for dogs with heart and kidney conditions. Your veterinarian can advise you on the best food to feed at each stage of your dog's disease progression.

What if my dog won't eat his new food?

Because our pets do not understand the importance of a therapeutic diet in helping them feel better, you may encounter some resistance. Don't give up if your dog refuses to eat their new treat! Try combining small amounts of old and new, heart-healthy foods. While not the ideal solution, it will help to reduce their daily sodium intake. If the refusal persists, you may need to consult with your veterinarian about changing foods or coaxing your canine companion to eat.

Your vet team is always your best resource when it comes to your dog's special diet!

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Are you looking for a new, heart-healthy diet for your dog? Contact our Pico Rivera vets today for an appointment so we can assess your dog and recommend some good diet options.