February is American Heart Month, and a good time to review heart health for everyone in your family, including your four-legged friends. Surprisingly, researchers estimate that approximately 10% of all dogs have heart disease1 and that the incidence of increases to over 60% in older dogs.2 Integrative wellness veterinarian, Dr. Karen Becker, has this suggestion for protecting your dog's heart health: “Feed a high quality, species-appropriate diet, which meets your pet's nutritional requirements for optimal protein and amino acid levels, healthy fat and coenzyme Q10.”3 This broad recommendation can be broken down into specific things to look for in your pet’s food to support his heart health.
Species-Appropriate Pet Foods Support Heart Health
In nature, dogs and cats are meat-eating predators, or what scientists call carnivores. A biologically-appropriate food for cats and dogs would be one that is low in carbohydrates and rich in high-quality animal protein from sources like chicken, beef, duck, lamb, fish, venison, and rabbit.
When wild dogs or cats consume their prey, often plant-eating animals or “herbivores,” they eat the entire animal, including hair, bones, entrails, blood, stomach contents, etc. By consuming their prey’s stomach and intestinal contents, which are partially digested plant materials, natural carnivores also obtain some additional essential nutrients available only from plants. Fruits and vegetables in a pet food are natural sources of essential vitamins and other nutrients.
All dry pet foods contain a grain or other starch so the kibble will hold its shape. Some are more likely to occur naturally in a wild dog or cat’s diet, and so will be more familiar to their digestive systems, than others. For example, millet is a grass seed similar to one a carnivore in the wild might consume from eating the stomach of a bird or other herbivore. It is more biologically-appropriate than a starch like potato or tapioca.
Fish Oil Supplies Heart-healthy Fats to Pet Food
For years researchers have known that omega-3 fatty acids supply people with healthy fats that have cardiovascular benefits in people.4 For this reason, many veterinarians recommend fish oil supplements for pets. The two fatty acids associated with heart health are DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).
If a pet food is made from high levels of animal protein, especially fish, the diet will naturally contain sufficient levels of the Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. However many pet experts recommend adding fish oil to your pet’s food, not only for heart health but to also support a healthy skin and coat. Sardine oil is among the most bio-available sources of these healthy fats.
Coenzyme Q10 & Heart Health in Pets
CoenzymeQ10 is an antioxidant, or a substance that inhibits oxidation or reactions promoted by oxygen, peroxides, or free radicals. These free radicals can damage cells and may play a part in several diseases. Researchers are currently studying the relationship between the anti oxidant Coenzyme Q10 and heart health. While more evidence is needed, many experts agree with Dr. Becker’s recommendation of a diet rich in coenzyme Q10 to support heart health in dogs. Coenzyme Q10 is found in organ meats as well as some fruits, vegetables, and nuts such as apple, broccoli, spinach, parsley, and almonds.
A pet food as close to what your pet might eat in the wild would be one high in animal protein, low in biologically-appropriate carbohydrates, and that contains some plant foods for essential vitamins and nutrients. Such a pet food would likely contain plenty of healthy omega-3 fatty acids from the animal protein, but you can also add a fish oil supplement. Finally, ingredients with the antioxidant Coenzyme Q10 may also benefit your pet’s heart health.
Nature’s Logic foods meet all these criteria with whole foods and 100% natural ingredients. Our diets contain no chemically-synthesized vitamins or minerals. For more information about Nature's Logic, visit www.natureslogic.com
1. Atkins C, Bonagura J, Ettinger S, et al. Guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of canine chronic valvular heart disease. J Vet Intern Med. 2009;23(6):1142–1150.
2. Rush JE. Chronic valvular heart disease in dogs. Proceedings from: 26th Annual Waltham Diets/OSU Symposium for the Treatment of Small Animal Cardiology, October 19–20, 2002.
4. Wang, C; Harris WS, Chung M, Lichtenstein AH, Balk EM, Kupelnick B, Jordan HS, Lau J (July 2006). "n−3 Fatty acids from fish or fish-oil supplements, but not alpha-linolenic acid, benefit cardiovascular disease outcomes in primary- and secondary-prevention studies: a systematic review". Am J Clin Nutr 84 (1): 5–17. PMID 16825676.