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How to Feed Your Dog a Heart-Healthy Diet

Andrew Dickens

By

Andrew Dickens
Andrew Dickens

Andrew Dickens

Editor

Andrew Dickens is an award-winning writer, editor and broadcaster with 20 years in journalism. He’s created compelling content on film and television, travel, food and drink, physical and mental health, business, sport, technology and politics. And, of course, dog food.

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Updated: April 25, 2024

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Your dog’s heart is the engine that powers their entire body. Have you ever considered that the contents of their bowl could be crucial for maintaining their heart’s well-being?

In addition to regular exercise and veterinary check-ups, providing your dog with a diet rich in heart-healthy foods can play a significant role in supporting their cardiac function and preventing certain heart-related ailments.

We asked Bridget Meadows, Head of Food at 5-star-rated Ollie fresh dog food to discuss the key qualities and ingredients that make a dog food heart-healthy and to offer tips on enhancing your dog’s bowl for optimal heart health.

Here’s what she wrote…

The top heart-healthy foods for your dog

Whether you’re contemplating a switch to a heart-healthy fresh food diet like Ollie or simply looking to augment your dog’s existing diet, there are several ingredients known for their potent heart-health benefits:

  • Carrots, Pumpkin, and Sweet Potatoes: These vegetables are rich in beta carotene (converted to vitamin A) and potassium, which not only support your pup’s heart but also bolster their immune and digestive systems.
  • Rosemary: This fragrant herb contains antioxidants that support the immune system and may reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease in your pup.
  • Animal Proteins: Chicken, beef, pork, and lamb contain L-carnitine, an essential amino acid vital for heart health.
  • Whole Grains: Brown and white rice, oatmeal, and barley offer heart-healthy vitamins and fiber.
  • Green Leafy Vegetables: Spinach and kale are packed with free-radical-fighting antioxidants that contribute to reducing heart muscle damage.
  • Fish: Fatty fish varieties such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel are brimming with omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce inflammation and enhance heart function.
  • Blueberries: Packed with fiber and heart-healthy antioxidants, blueberries can reduce degenerative damage to the heart.
  • Organ Meat: Hearts, in particular, are superfoods for dogs, being high in taurine and serving as the sole food source for enzyme CoQ10, which combats harmful oxidative stress.
  • Flaxseed Oil: Rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, as well as lignans, flaxseed oil provides substantial support to cardiovascular health.

If your dog has been diagnosed with heart disease, it’s crucial to consult your veterinarian before introducing new foods into their diet. Following your vet’s dietary recommendations will help ensure your pup doesn’t develop nutritional deficiencies that could exacerbate their condition.

Dietary tips for a heart-healthy canine companion

  • Use a High-Quality Protein: Contrary to what past advice suggests, restricted protein diets are no longer recommended for dogs with heart issues. Protein is essential for maintaining a healthy heart, as it strengthens the heart muscle and supports contractility. Dr. Carol Osborne, an integrative veterinarian with the Chagrin Falls Pet Clinic in Ohio, recommends aiming for at least 25 to 30 percent high-quality lean protein, such as chicken or salmon, in your dog’s diet.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils are essential for overall canine heart health. They reduce inflammation and protect against abnormal heart rhythms. Consider adding natural sources of omega-3 fatty acids, such as cod liver oil, sardines, or salmon, to your dog’s diet, or use dietary supplements.
  • Reduce Sodium Intake: Excess dietary salt is detrimental to dogs, especially for pups prone to heart disease. Keep your dog on a low-sodium diet with less than 100 mg daily. Whenever possible, steer clear of salty human snacks like chips to avoid sudden sodium spikes that can stress heart function.
  • Weight Management: Maintaining a healthy weight is critical in preventing heart problems. Avoid free-feeding and strive for a balanced diet with a 1:1:1 ratio of high-quality meat protein, natural fats (e.g., cod liver oil), and nutrient-dense carbohydrates from starches, vegetables, and seeds. Ollie’s fresh recipes can help keep your pup’s cardiac health robust with heart-healthy foods.
  • Taurine Supplementation: Taurine, an amino acid, is beneficial for heart function, even in healthy dogs. Some breeds, like Portuguese Water Dogs and Golden Retrievers, are more prone to taurine deficiency. You can find taurine naturally in cooked lamb, raw beef liver, or administer it in supplement form under your vet’s guidance.

Which dog breeds are prone to heart disease?

While no dog owner likes to dwell on their pup’s vulnerability, understanding your dog’s risk factors can help you make informed, heart-healthy choices. Some dog breeds are genetically predisposed to heart disease and other cardiac conditions, including:

  • Golden Retrievers
  • Boxers
  • Dachshunds
  • Miniature and Toy Poodles
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
  • Miniature Schnauzers
  • Doberman Pinschers

Each breed may be susceptible to different heart-related issues, with varying disease onset, symptoms, and severity. Familiarize yourself with your dog’s breed-associated risks to identify early warning signs and take proactive steps for their cardiovascular health.

If you’re concerned about your pup’s heart disease risks, consult your veterinarian about screening tests for heart-related disorders.

Final word

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