How diet affects the heart health of dogs

dogs heart health

The importance of a good diet should not be underestimated when it comes to the heart health of dogs and preventing or treating heart disease. With approximately one third of dogs over 10 years old having some sort of cardiovascular disease it is important to understand the nutrient profile of your pet’s diet and the impact it may be having on their heart health. Salt intake should be monitored as congestive heart failure is associated with retention of sodium, chloride, and water.

What is MMCVD?

The most common cardiac condition seen in dogs is myxomatous mitral valve disease (MMCVD). More commonly found in smaller breed dogs this condition is caused by the degeneration of the mitral valves which sit on the left-hand side of the heart between the left atrium and left ventricle. It is also seen in middle aged and geriatric dogs so if you have a larger breed you still need to monitor their heart health.

The degenerative process causes the valves to thicken and retract. This creates a hole in which blood can flow back from the left ventricle into the left atrium when the left ventricle contracts. Most dogs with MMCVD show no clinical signs, especially when the disease is mild. It often takes a vet to pick it up first. It is only when the disease progresses to the point of Congestive Heart Failure that is becomes more obvious.

What is DCM?

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a disease of the heart muscle and one of the more common heart diseases found in dogs. DCM causes the heart to enlarge and pump weakly. This can cause coughing, difficulty breathing, collapse or even sudden death. It occurs when the heart muscle (myocardium) of the lower pumping chambers (ventricles) become weak and unable to contract normally.

Usually, DCM occurs in the left side of the heart which is the side that receives blood from the lungs and pumps it into the body. When the heart muscle cannot pump blood out of the left heart, the kidneys will retain sodium and water to increase the amount of blood returning to the heart. This leads to an enlargement of the ventricles to compensate for the ineffective pumping. This process can cause the blood pressure in the heart to back up into the lungs and cause fluid build-up (pulmonary edema). This is called heart failure or congestive heart failure (CHF).

How can your pupper’s diet cause heart problems?

A rise in DCM in breeds not typically susceptible to it prompted the US Food and Drug Administration to investigate and a study found that many of these dogs ate certain pet foods labelled ‘grain free.’ Whilst not all grain-free food is bad some vets are advising against it due to its highly publicised link to DCM. This research is by no means definitive but there appears to be a connection between grain free diets that include lentils, white potatoes, and legumes such as peas as the base ingredient in their dog food.

At Lyka, we are avoiding legumes and beet pulp until more research has been conducted. We use ingredients such as quinoa, butternut squash and purple potato. Our recipes also include whole food ingredients such as high-quality protein with excellent bioavailability and amino acid profiles. These are known to deliver cardio-supportive results and include L-carnitine and taurine. They have naturally high antioxidant levels which minimise oxidative stress. We also ensure our recipes are low in salt in accordance with the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) guidelines.

dogs heart health

What your pupper needs for a healthy, happy heart

Omega 3
Essential Omega 3s include Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) 

The two most essential Omega 3s, EPA and DHA, are found in fish and seafood sources. Mackerel, sardines and fish oil all great low-mercury options.

ALA requires a bit more work for your pup’s body to convert and is found in ingredients like eggs, flaxseed oil, canola oil, spirulina and other plant sources. For dogs to use ALA, their bodies must convert it to EPA & DHA. This is an inefficient way to access it, so it is preferable to maximise EPA & DHA, rather than ALA, in your dog’s diet. 

When it comes to total fat content in a diet it is important to consider the ratio of Omegas 6:3 as food lower in saturated fats may have a higher total fat content due to being enriched with Omega 3s. 

To help minimise the inflammatory response, Lyka recipes contain well above AAFCO’s recommended minimum ration of 6:3 omega 3 to omega 6. Our ratio is 30:1 and we also include increased levels of natural vitamin E (d-alpha tocopherol) to offset the higher requirements associated with a high omega 3 diet. This is achieved by using grass-fed and free-range ingredients. These are higher in Omega 3 than their grain-fed counterparts. They are also lower in supersaturated fats.

Vitamin E
Vitamin E provides vital defence against oxidative damage. This fat-soluble vitamin is essential for cell function and metabolism. Vitamin E can be sourced from ingredients such as  leafy greens, coconut, hemp seeds and safflower oil. We take care to ensure appropriate levels of vitamin E in all Lyka recipes, for optimal omega-3 utilisation.

L-carnitine
This is an important amino acid nutrient that transports fatty acids that are essential to the cellular production of energy. If your pupper is deficient in this nutrient it can cause a variety of health conditions, including heart disease.

Lyka recipes include high quality protein with excellent bioavailability and amino acid profiles to deliver known cardio-supportive action, including L-carnitine and taurine.

Taurine
Taurine is an amino acid that is necessary for normal cardiac muscle function and helps to prevent and treat DCM. Typically, this amino acid is produced by the dog when they’re eating a nutritionally balanced diet. It is important for your pup’s metabolic processes and is thought to have antioxidant properties.

Introducing the gut-cardiac axis

Sounds technical right? It’s about your dog’s friendly gut bacteria. A study in 2021 found that dogs who progressed from low level mitral valve disease to heart failure had high levels of gut dysbiosis. This means there is an imbalance of gut microbiota that leads to unhealthy outcomes including heart failure. Anything that is found to be good for gut health may support your pet’s chances of avoiding heart failure.

Lyka: complete and balanced for optimal heart health

All of Lyka’s recipes are low in salt, free from legumes and beet pulp, but rich in bio actives and amino acids. Each recipe is formulated by our co-founder and Integrative Vet, Dr. Matthew Muir, with heart health top of mind. For puppers with heart issues, we highly recommend our Beef and Kangaroo Bowls.