How to Choose the Best Food for Dogs with Heart Murmurs
Heart murmurs are described as an unusual heart sound. They are most commonly discovered during a veterinary visit when the doctor listens to the dog’s heart through a stethoscope.
Heart murmurs are graded on a scale of one through six with one being the least serious and six of the greatest concern. Heart murmurs can be genetic but often are the result of some disease. They are classified as physiologic or pathologic. Murmurs considered to be pathologic are typically brought on by a pre-existing structural heart condition.
Diagnosing a heart murmur can be very difficult as some are challenging to detect through a stethoscope. While a grade one murmur is barely audible and most often reserved to a specific area of the chest, a grade six is extremely loud and resonates throughout the chest cavity. Grade six murmurs can also be felt by the human hand.
Physiologic heart murmurs are not likely to pose any risk to a dog’s ongoing health. They are often discovered in young puppies. As the puppies age, it is quite normal for the heart murmur to simply disappear altogether though this is not always the case.
Dogs affected with pathologic heart murmurs will often exhibit other symptoms which indicate an underlying issue with the heart. The most common signs dogs with pathologic heart murmurs will exhibit are:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Abbreviated growth
- Respiratory distress
- Exercise intolerance
- Pale gums
- Irregular heartbeat
If a veterinarian suspects a dog may have a pathologic heart murmur, other tests may be recommended to help determine the best path of treatment. These include x-rays, an electrocardiogram, and an ultrasound.
Physiologic heart murmurs typically require no treatment. However, pathologic heart murmurs may need to be managed through the use of cardiac support diets and medications.
Since diet can play a critical role in heart health, a change of nutrition is an excellent way to assist dogs suffering from heart murmurs, particularly of the pathologic variety. The best dog foods for heart murmurs often contain supplemented vitamins and minerals such as taurine to encourage healthy cardiac function.
Choosing the Correct Calorie Count for Foods for Dogs with Heart Murmurs
Determining the correct amount of the best food for dogs with heart murmurs can be a difficult task. Thankfully, all foods come with suggested serving sizes printed on their packaging. These form an excellent guideline from which owners can work to ascertain the correct portion for their dog.
Owners should adjust the amount of food they feed their dog to reflect the dog’s own unique weight, activity level, and appetite. Free feeding should be strongly discouraged as it can easily lead to weight gain, putting unnecessary strain on the heart.
Adult dogs should receive a diet that is 18 percent protein and 5 percent fat. By comparison, puppies require slightly higher amounts of both of these food categories with 22 percent protein and 8 percent fat considered to be ideal.
Dietary Requirements for Foods for Dogs with Heart Murmurs
There are many things owners can do to help dogs suffering with heart murmurs. Maintaining a healthy body weight is an important part of keeping the heart functioning at peak capacity. Often dogs with heart murmurs suffer from a poor appetite which can easily lead to lost muscle mass which translates to poor immunity, reduced life expectancy, and low energy reserves. A high quality, flavorful diet will help encourage dogs with low appetite to eat more heartily.
As with all dogs, dogs with heart murmurs do best on a diet that is based on a lean meat-based protein. Ideally, a whole meat is the preferred choice; however, meat meals also contain a dense amount of protein that is an excellent foundation for any of the best foods for dogs with heart murmurs.
Contrary to popular opinion, reduced amounts of protein are not preferable for dogs with heart murmurs. Though for most dogs, avoiding diets based on by-products or plant-based proteins is preferred, prescription diets do favor some of these items in their formulations. Since these may prove beneficial to compromised heart function, these foods can be a good choice for dogs with heart murmurs.
Artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, and ingredients high in sodium should be avoided as they contain no beneficial nutrients. Excess sodium can cause fluid retention, placing additional strain on the heart.
Healthy fats are an important part of every diet suited to dogs. These are best derived from animal origins such as chicken fat or oily fish. These types of fats contain high amounts of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids which contribute to healthy joint function as well as good skin and coat quality.
Supplements such as glucosamine, chondroitin, prebiotics, and probiotics can also be a vital help for dogs with heart murmurs. These powerhouse ingredients encourage fluid digestive processes and joint health.
Carbohydrates from whole grains, fruits, and vegetables should be highly digestible and rich in antioxidants to support a healthy immune system.
In addition to these items, dogs with heart murmurs can benefit from foods rich in the following vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Co-Enzyme Q-10
Things to Look for in the Best Dog Foods for Heart Murmurs
Here is a basic list of the most important things to look for in a dog food for heart murmurs:
- Whole meat or meat meal proteins heading up the ingredients list
- Prepared without the addition of chemicals, flavorings, fillers, or mystery ingredients
- Enriched with probiotics and helpful supplements
- Meets AAFCO nutritional requirements for a complete and balanced food
- Low in sodium to help prevent fluid retention and high blood pressure in dogs