All minds turn to hearts as we approach Valentine’s Day. That makes it the perfect month to celebrate heart health in humans and pets too! There is so much we can do to prevent and treat heart conditions, going well beyond exercise.
Heart Conditions in Dogs, Cats, Rabbits and Horses
A common heart disease in dogs is Valvular Heart Disease causing valvular degeneration, most often seen in small, senior dogs. Additionally, Cardiomyopathy is a heart muscle disease that is more often seen in large breeds like Dobermans and Boxers, as well as the smaller Cocker Spaniel. Cardiomyopathy is more often seen in purebred dogs, suggesting it may be genetic. Some studies have found a relation to a deficiency in Taurine and L-carnitine, which suggests another genetic disorder similar to one seen in humans, Primary Carnitine Deficiency (one of the symptoms of which being cardiomyopathy).
Cats most often suffer from Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Dilated Cardiomyopathy is becoming much less common now that we know it is caused by a deficiency in Taurine.
Rabbits can suffer from Cardiac Disease and Cardiac Arrhythmias as they age or due to genetic predisposition. The natural prevention and treatment of heart issues in rabbits is based primarily on stress reduction and maintaining a healthy weight. Some heart conditions that cause fluid accumulation may benefit from natural diuretics, like dandelion.
Horses can suffer from Atrial Fibrillation, Cardiac Arrhythmias, Aortic Aneurysms, various (usually small) heart abnormalities, and rarely, congenital heart defects. There hasn’t been much connection identified between heart conditions in horses and their diets, probably because it’s so basic. Still, a suitable diet that is high in the proper nutrients will ensure all systems are in peak condition, which in turn prevents secondary heart conditions.
Heart Health for Natural Pets
The natural remedies and prevention of heart disease in most pets are very similar to humans. However, there are exceptions so it’s critical that you research the topic as it applies to the individual species you have in your home. It isn’t the beneficial nutrients that vary so much as finding a natural source of them that is appropriate for your pet.
Carnivores: Naturally preventing heart disease in carnivores like cats is as simple as feeding them a diet suitable for an obligate carnivore. That may include a homemade or raw diet. Supplement their diet with heart-healthy foods, like fish and krill.
Herbivore: The biggest threat to herbivores is an improper diet that includes the wrong type of fat and protein. Herbivores are able to uptake and utilize heart-healthy nutrients provided by a vegetarian diet, including dark, leafy greens and seaweed. Today’s vegetables, grains and grasses are often grown in depleted soil, so it’s important to provide natural supplements like seaweed and for some species, raw mineral salt.
Omnivores: Dogs are the most popular pets that fall into the omnivore category in regards to diet. Contrary to what some have come to believe, dogs are scientifically classed as omni-carnivores, not obligate carnivores. That makes it very easy to provide them with a variety of foods and supplements that benefit the cardiovascular system, including those high in Omega 3 and Phytonutrients.
Supplements often recommended for pets to naturally treat or prevent heart problems:
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Sea Cucumber Extract
Terminalia arjuna Bark
Polygonum multiflorum (Fo-ti) root
Centella asiatica (Gotu kola)
Vitamin B15 (DMG)
It’s important to note that the effectiveness of any herb or supplement depends entirely upon its quality and freshness. We rely on Starwest Botanicals for most of our herbs.
If you prefer an easier solution, there are several natural, mixed extract products designed specifically for pet heart health, including popular supplements like Young at Heart for Dog Heart Disease and Young at Heart for Cat Heart Disease.
To prevent heart disease (and certainly to treat it), homemade pet food offers many benefits. You can use your pet’s favorite foods to make it more palatable without adding copious amounts of salt like most pet food manufacturers. It also makes it easy to include as many heart healthy ingredients and supplements as possible. You can bake or dehydrate tasty homemade pet treats too. Alternately, choose a premium quality natural wet pet food and mix in natural supplements.
I Heart Meatloaf for Dogs
© Formulated by Melody McKinnon exclusively for AllNaturalPetCare.com
1 pound ground turkey
4 oz minced sardines
4 oz chopped oysters or mussels
2 TBSP ground freeze-dried krill
1 egg (preferably an Omega 3 egg)
1/2 cup finely chopped broccoli
1/4 cup finely chopped red bell peppers
1/4 cup finely chopped shiitake or maitake mushrooms
1/4 cup finely chopped astragalus
1 tsp mixed seaweed/algae
1/2 tsp rosemary
1 tsp bonemeal
1 – 6 ounce can tomato paste
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup uncooked quinoa
A dash of Calcium Montmorillonite Clay
Optional: Additional supplements chosen from the above list.
Preheat oven: 350F
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Pureed vegetables may ensure they get eaten by more finicky pets.
Pack firmly into loaf pan greased with extra virgin olive oil or vegetable oil.
Bake for 1.5 hours.
Cool & slice.
Note of Caution: Discuss all dietary changes and natural treatments with your Veterinarian or Naturopath to prevent drug interactions, problems with existing conditions, or other potential complications.
Have you ever had a pet with a heart condition? Please share your experience and tips in the comments below.
Nakamura, K. et al. Prognostic Value of Left Atrial Function in Dogs with Chronic Mitral Valvular Heart Disease. 2014.
Engel, Cindy. Wild Health: Lessons in Natural Wellness from the Animal Kingdom. 2003.
Messonnier, Shawn DVM. Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats: Your A-Z Guide to Over 200 Conditions, Herbs, Vitamins, and Supplements 2001.
Levy, Juliette. The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable 1991.
Tilford, Gregory. Wulff, Mary. Herbs for Pets: The Natural Way to Enhance Your Pet’s Life. 2009.
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
✔ You may also be interested in reading:
Natural Sources of Taurine for Cats
Natural Diet of Large-Breed Domestic Cats
Safely Dehydrating Meat Pet Treats
Astragalus Root for Dogs, Cats, Horses or Aquarium Fish
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