Your pooch’s heart health is an important aspect of their overall wellbeing you shouldn’t joke with. Protecting their heart health is as good as protecting yours since your dog is a part of your family.
However, note that cardiovascular diseases affect dogs differently than humans. For example, coronary artery disease is common in humans but not common in dogs, while congestive heart failure (CHF) is a major problem in senior dogs.
The good news is that you can avoid CHF or slow down its progression to keep your dog healthy for many years.
How a dog’s heart works
You can think of the heart as a pump that supplies blood to all body cells. As the cardiac muscles contract and relaxes, it leads to the movement of blood through the heart.
As the blood circulates through the body, it picks up oxygen and important nutrients and delivers them to the body tissues while removing metabolic waste (carbon dioxide).
The heart pumps blood in a coordinated way on a specific path. The right section of the heart (ventricle and atrium) collects unoxygenated blood from all parts of the body and pumps it to the lungs for reoxygenation.
The left section of the heart receives the oxygenated blood and passes it to all body cells where it delivers oxygen. This blood circulation allows every organ in the body to perform its function optimally.
Common heart diseases among dogs
Heart disease is more prevalent in humans than dogs. It affects only about 10% of all dogs. The common types in dogs are not the typical conditions in humans. Here are some common types of canine heart disease.
Adult heartworm: This can mechanically interfere with the heart, and anytime a dog is diagnosed with a heart condition, this disease is among the first to be tested for.
Endocardial and valve disease: This disease can be caused by a number of conditions, including aging, genetic abnormality, infections, and worn valves.
Congenital heart disease: This is the most common heart disease in dogs as it affects around 1 percent of the total population of dogs. Diseases like degenerative valvular disease and cardiomyopathy of small dog breeds may have a heritable component.
Most parts of the heart may be defective at birth and the symptoms vary, depending on the location of the defect. Most of these defects can be detected by listening for a murmur, which may be characteristic of the location and type of the defect. Also, ECGs or other aids may be needed to pinpoint the problem.
Simple ways to keep your dog’s heart healthy
Feed a healthy diet
A healthy diet is important for a healthy heart. Choose high-quality and balanced foods for your dogs and reduce treats to a minimum. This helps to control or prevent conditions like obesity, which is one of the enemies of a healthy heart.
Although many dog owners put their dogs on a homemade diet, it is important to consult your vet before implementing such diets to ensure your dog gets all the nutrients they need. More so, consult your vet if you have any problem establishing a healthy diet plan for your furry friend.
That said, here are some heart-healthy snacks you can give to your dog as treats:
- Sweet potato
These treats are a great addition to any of your dog’s diets and they will surely love them.
Consider using probiotics
Probiotics are great for supporting gut health and they work for our furry friends too. The gut bacteria influence your dog’s overall health and wellbeing, including their heart health. So maintaining a balance of these good bacteria is important.
Studies show that an imbalance in gut bacteria can impact a dog’s heart health while repopulating the gut with good bacteria reduces blood pressure and inflammation.
Probiotics come in various forms. You can get the easy-to-use powdered form and sprinkle them on your dog’s regular food.
Reduce sodium in your dog’s diet
Too much sodium in your dog’s diet can lead to heart problems. Many studies have shown that the diets of healthy dogs should contain a maximum sodium level of 1.8%. Always keep an eye on the sodium content of your dog’s food to ensure that they’re not taking too much.
Engage your dog in exercises
The fact that your dog maintains a healthy weight does not necessarily mean they are fit. You need to provide them with a lot of exercises to keep their heart healthy.
The good thing about dogs is that they love to exercise and participate in it eagerly. You can choose from hiking, walking, swimming, flyball, agility, etc. – whatever keeps their heart pumping!
Other benefits of exercises for your dog include maintaining a healthy weight, strengthening your bond with your pooch, and keeping them out of trouble.
Heartworm disease is a problem that can lead to serious complications including, restricted blood flow, inflammation, heart failure, and pulmonary embolism. Some dogs can suffer permanent damage even with treatment.
It is better to prevent heartworm disease than to treat it. You can administer an injection or a pill periodically, depending on your preferred prevention method. However, ensure your dog is up-to-date on heartworm prevention at all times. This helps to protect their heart health.
Ensure your dog is getting enough omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are important for a dog’s heart health. Studies have shown that supplementing a dog’s diet with omega-3 improves their appetite and decreases the production of inflammatory hormones.
One sure way of ensuring that your dog gets sufficient omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients is to supplement their diet with a multivitamin. Different types of doggie supplements come in form of flavored treats. Your dog will happily gobble up these treats every day without knowing some blast of goodness is being added.
Prioritize dental care
Dogs are more at risk of having dental disease between the ages of 4 and 9, and this has a connection with heart disease. The tartar, plaque, and infection in your dog’s mouth can travel through the bloodstream to your dog’s heart, and this can contribute to congestive heart failure.
To prevent dental diseases, you need to maintain a healthy dental care routine. Brush your dog’s teeth at home and annually, take them for a professional dental cleaning.
Visit your vet if you notice signs of poor oral health, including sore gums, foul breath, drooling, or bleeding.
Know the signs of heart disease
Dogs experience diseases differently. Some breeds are more prone to heart disease than others. The Boxer and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, for example, have genetic predispositions for some heart conditions.
However, it is important to closely monitor your dog for signs of heart disease, including:
- Shortness of breath
- Dry cough after exercising
- Swollen belly
- Pale gums
- Sudden weight loss
- Coughing at night
Your dog’s heart health is very important as this organ controls many functions, including the circulation of blood which carries nutrients and oxygen to all body cells. Although heart diseases are more common in humans, some dog breeds are prone to heart disease. That’s more reason why you need to follow the simple tips highlighted above to keep your pooch’s heart in a healthy state.
Do not forget to show love and care to your four-legged friends as it also helps to boost their heart health. Lastly, ensure you visit your vet for regular checkups on your dog. Remember, it is easier to prevent these heart diseases than to cure or treat it!