Lew Olson's newly revised edition is filled with an abundance of new topics and information. Whether you are new to home feeding or a seasoned raw feeder, have a senior dog or a new puppy, a pregnant mom or a toy breed, this book presents all the information you need to make the best nutritional decisions for your dog.

Cardiovascular Diet

Cardiovascular Disorders

By Lew Olson • January 2003 Newsletter
Current statistics show that 12% of the deaths in dogs are caused by heart diseases. This is the second largest problem in dogs, with cancer being first, according to this article at www.wabre.org. Diagnosing heart disease can be a perplexing problem as there are many types of cardiovascular problems. Some of these include congenital, which is often thought of as genetic, heart failure, and heart diseases. Many of these problems can overlap, making the correct cause hard to distinguish.

Two distinct areas of heart problems in dogs involve either 1. the heart muscle (myocardium) or 2. the valves in the heart. (dogs tend to have more valvular problems and cats tend to have more problems with the heart muscle).

Heart problems can be genetic (inherited), congenital or acquired (develop as the dog grows older).
Let’s try to break this down into more understandable areas.
Congenital heart problems in dogs include malformation of the heart or great vessels and account for 60% to 70% of the diagnosed heart problems. Some of the congenital heart problems are:
Patent Ductus Arteriosus which is a continuous heart murmur with maximal intensity over the left craniodorsal cardiac base.
Ventral Septal Defect is a systolic murmur with maximal intensity over the right ventral precorium: less often maximal intensity is over the pulmonic valve area and pulmonary artery.
Atrial Septal Defect is a systolic murmur with maximal intensity over the pulmonic valve area and pulmonary artery. In this case, the second heart sound may be widely split.
Pulmonic Stenosis is a systolic murmur with maximal intensity over the pulmonic valve area and pulmonary artery.
Valvular and subvalvular aortic stenosis is a systolic murmur with maximal intensity over the subaortic or aortic valve area and radiating into the ascending aorta. The murmur may also be prominent over the right cranial thorax.
Mitral Valve Dysplasia is a systolic murmur with maximal intensity over the left apex and mitrial area.
Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia is a systolic murmur with maximal intensity over the tircuspid valve area.
Right-to-left cardiac shunt – Variable – a systolic murmur at the left base is often detected: cyanosis is an important clinical sign. http://devinefarm.net/health/ofaheart.htm
Please note the disorders listed above involve the valves in the heart. They are characterized by a heart murmur. It is very important to always have a puppyês heart checked by a veterinarian, and for a more definitive diagnosis have a cardiologist board certified veterinarian do the check up if there is any question. If a murmur is found, it will be placed into one of these classifications:
Grade 1: A very soft murmur only detected after very careful auscultation.
Grade 2: A soft murmur that is readily evident.
Grade 3: A moderately intense murmur not associated with a palpable precordial thrill (vibration).
Grade 4: A loud murmur; a palpable precordial thrill is not present or is intermittent.
Grade 5: A loud cardiac murmur associated with a palable precordial thrill; the murmur is not audible through the thoracic wall.
Grade 6: A loud cardiac murmur associated with a palpable precordial thrill and audible even through the thoracic wall. http://devinefarm.net/health/ofaheart.htm
Signs of valvular problems include lack of tolerance for exercise, coughing (especially first thing in the morning or night), and fainting and weight loss. www.v-e-t-s.co.uk/heart_disease%20dog.htm
There are murmurs known as •innocentê murmurs. These murmurs can be detected in puppies when they are examined by a cardiologist. An •innocentê murmur will resolve itself by age four months or so. If a murmur remains past that age, it would be wise to visit a veterinarian cardiologist for a proper diagnosis.
The other common type of heart disorder is cardiomyopathy. This is described as having a thin heart muscle. This can be caused by infection, autoimmune disorders that affect the heart or a nutritional deficiency. It generally affects large to giant breed dogs, young to middle aged. Symptoms include increased thirst, increased appetite, loss of weight, fluid accumulation in the abdomen and digestive problems. If these problems are seen, please check for both hypothyroid conditions and the heart as these symptoms are common for both disorders. www.v-e-t-s.co.uk/heart_disease%20dog.htm
A reverse problem of the above is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) which is a thickening of the muscle walls of the heart. This is more common in cats, but can also be seen occasionally in dogs. http://animalpetdoctor.homestead.com/Heart.html
The last common heart problem in dogs is caused by old age. It is where the arteries in the heart start stiffening which causes a lack of blood flow to the heart. Poor diets, leading to anemia in older dogs, can also cause a lack of oxygen to the heart.
If a dog is suspected of having one of these disorders, veterinarians can employ various methods to determine if the heart is affected. These include:
– Listening to the heart for murmurs, congestion or irregular heart beat.
– Radiographs of the chest to look for congestion and to see if the heart is abnormally large.
– Electrocardiogram (ECG) can detect irregular heartbeats
– Echocardiogram detects through sound waves to locate any defects in the heart.
– Complete blood and urine panel
These tests should also include testing for other problems of the heart, including heartworms, tumors, bacteria infections, thyroid panel and autoimmune diseases that can affect the heart function.
Traditional Treatment for Heart Disease
Several prescription medications are used to help heart function. These include:
Diuretics: These help in the presence of fluid build up around the heart or abdomen. This would include furosemide and spironolactone. Antihypertensive drugs (vascodilators) assist in dilating arteries and veins. This helps the heart to pump blood more efficiently. These include enalapril, capoten, enacard and nitroglycerine.
Digitalis glycosides: Help to increase the force of the hearts contractions. Must be carefully monitored as the side effects can be toxic. Includes Foxaline, digitoxin and lanoxin. Beta Blockers- These are helpful in hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and dilated cardiomyopathy to slow the heart rate which helps the ventricles fill with blood between contractions. This includes atenolol and propanolol. www.mesavet.com/library/heartmeds.htm
http://www.vetheart.com/diseases.html. Most veterinarians will recommend a low sodium diet, and a prescription dog food.
Alternative Therapies in Nutrition and Supplements
New studies in nutrition and the heart in canines have shown some interesting results. Taurine has been shown to be essential to cats, but the emphasis for dogs has been neglected. New studies show that certain breeds prone to dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), such as Newfoundlands, have a tendency to have taurine deficiencies. Studies are also currently being performed on Doberman Pinschers in this area. While scientists believed that dog foods high enough in sulfur and proteins would allow canines to produce taurine, they now believe this may not be true. It is thought taurine metabolism may well contribute to DCM. www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/CCAH/Update06-2/6-2_Taurine.html
It is also thought that current levels of taurine found in commercial diets may not be adequate to meet the needs of canines. http://nss.vet.ohio-state.edu/DDT/new%20pages/nut&card.htm
Taurine is abundant in fresh meat sources, but it is felt that processing animal proteins at high temperatures may affect the integrity of this amino acid. While taurine may be added to the diet as a supplement, it can also be found in raw or lightly cooked meats, such as chicken, beef and organ meat. While a raw diet might be the best diet for a dog with a compromised heart ® one low in sodium and high in taurine, if changing to a total raw diet seems daunting, then adding some fresh meat to the commercial diet would certainly be helpful.
Current studies have shown heart diseases in dogs demonstrate a low incidence of l-carnitine in their systems. L-carnitine is an amino acid that helps maintain the integrity of long chain fatty acids in the cells of the heart muscle. When l-carnitine is lacking in the diet, the heart muscle will suffer. L-carnitine, like taurine, is found in animal protein. L-carnitine is highest in beef and pork sources. Plant sources are very poor for both of these amino acids. www.gooddogmagazine.com/heartfailure.htm
Another very promising study showed Cocker Spaniels with DCM that were given both taurine and l-carnitine responded very well to this treatment. http://www.vetheart.com/97443682.htm and www.vetheart.com/diseases.html
CO Enzyme Q 10 (COQ10)
Studies have also shown that heart failure patients are low in this nutrient. COQ10 is helpful in inhibiting certain enzymes that produce free radicals. COQ10 seems to work best when given with l-carnitine for heart problems. www.vetheart.com/diseases.html and http://www.nhir.com/tests/co_q10.pdf and www.gooddogmagazine.com/heartfailure.htm
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Probably the most exciting research is the work being done on fish oils. A study at Tufts University shows that fish oils help stop loss of muscle mass in heart disease. It appears the omega 3 fatty acids found in fish and salmon oil are very effective for supporting the heart. www.listservice.net/wellpet/disease/fishoil-heartdisease.htm
Further studies showed that heart disease resulted in alterations in fatty acids, and fish oil decreased the problems associated with this. www.vetheart.com/99074654.htm and www.gooddogmagazine.com/heartfailure.htm
Omega 3 fatty acids are also promising in helping to regulate the immune system and hormonal balance.
There is also ongoing research on these supplements in the veterinary research field:
Interventional nutrition for cardiac disease. AU: Freeman-LM SO: Clin-Tech-Small-Anim-Pract. 1998 Nov; 13(4): 232-7 “AB: Animals with cardiac disease can have a variety of nutritional alterations for which interventional nutrition can be beneficial. Deviation from optimal body weight, both obesity and cachexia is a common problem in cardiac patients and adversely affects the animal. Methods for maintaining optimal weight are important for good quality of life in dogs and cats with cardiac disease. Providing proper diets to prevent excess intake of sodium and chloride is also important, but severe salt restriction may not be necessary until later stages of disease. Certain nutrient deficiencies may play a role in the pathogenesis or complications of cardiac disease, but nutrients also may have effects on cardiac disease which are above and beyond their nutritional effects (nutritional pharmacology). Supplementation of nutrients such as taurine, carnitine, coenzyme Q10, and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids may have benefits in dogs and cats with cardiac disease through a number of different mechanisms. By addressing each of these areas, maintaining optimal weight, avoiding nutritional deficiencies and excesses, and providing the benefits of nutritional pharmacology, optimal patient management can be achieved,”
While none of these supplements can replace traditional therapies and medications, research shows that all of them show promising results to help enhance the heart function and in many cases to prolong life and provide comfort for the dog. It seems that by supplementing with l-carnitine, COQ10 and omega 3 fatty acids it would help to prevent deficiency in these nutrients. Also, choosing to feed a raw diet, a lightly cooked diet, or adding meat to the present diet, will help would help to ensure healthy levels of taurine present in the body. A raw diet is also naturally low in sodium. Additionally, fat can be monitored in a home prepared diet, which helps control obesity. All of these will lead to the best heart health for your dog. And that indeed, is the true heart of the matter!
B-Naturals offer the Bertes Cardio Pack which contains L-Carnitine (60 Count), Salmon Oil (180 Count), COQ10 (30 Count), and Bertes Immune Blend (16 oz)
A Personal Note from Lew . . .
Subaortic Stenosis is a heart disease of particular interest in my breed, the Rottweiler. The Darla Fund was started in memory of Diana Richard’s beloved Rottweiler Darla, VP rated Frontier Justagenius Darla. Darla died as a direct result of the Sub Aortic Stenosis, a congenital conditional at birth.
Sub Aortic Stenosis (SAS) is the most common congenital heart defect in Rottweilers.
SAS involves the narrowing of the out-flow tract from the left ventricle leading to the aorta. When there is a narrowing of the tract, the heart must pump harder to get blood through the smaller opening. As the SAS-affected dog matures, his/her heart develops a thicker muscle to push harder, which leads to an irregular heart beat, a lack of blood to the heart, congestive heart failure, or sudden death. SAS is diagnosed in living dogs by a cardiologist performing a dopplar echocardiograph exam of dogs with heart murmurs.
At the present time there are no tests available to detect SAS in dogs that are known as “silent affected”. Silent affected are dogs who pass the current Dopplar echocardiogram test but who actually harbor the gene for SAS. Complicating this even further is the fact that SAS is currently thought to be caused by a dominant gene that has variable penetrance, meaning it can appear as a visible health issue in some dogs, but as an invisible threat (the above mentioned silent affected) in other dogs. Reference the GRCA SAS study.
For those who are interested in finding out more about this disease and to help with needed funds for more research, please contact:

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THE DARLA FUND Financial donations towards Rottweiler subaortic stenosis research Frontier 406 Poverty Plains Rd Warner, NH 03278 frontierrots@webtv.net www.frontierrots.com/darlafd.htm

For Links on this particular heart disease:
SAS – research in Golden Retrievers One year progress report
SAS research in Golden Retrievers Two year progress report (PDF file)
www.ovcnet.uoguelph.ca. Cardiology concepts. Covers all heart issues. Issues to read are 134 congenital heart diseases; 140 – 144 Aortic stenosis; 161 causes for syncope.
SAS – what it is and why breeders should be concerned.
SAS in Rottweilers.
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