February is National Heart Health Month which means brining awareness to heart conditions and how to prevent them in both humans and our canine companions. According to the CVCA, nearly 10% of all dogs in the United States suffer from some form of heart disease, and about 75% of those are seniors. The good news is that staying on top of your dog’s heart health doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming, and you might just find that keeping your dog healthy benefits you both!
Feed Them a Healthy Diet
Just like with us humans, making sure your dog eats a healthy, balanced diet is the key to keeping their whole body healthy. Avoid foods with high amounts of sodium and chloride, and consider adding Omega 3 fatty acids to their diet, which research has shown decreases the production of inflammatory hormones. Probiotics can also be beneficial as they help to balance and support the bacteria in your dog’s gut, something which can have a direct impact on the heart if there is an imbalance. Good thing dogs love to eat!
Get Lots of Exercise
Exercising your dog is important for their heart health because it strengthens the muscles and improves their ability to pull oxygen from the blood. It also helps to lower blood pressure and reduce stress levels. Luckily, most dogs love cardio and will gladly go for long walks, jogs, hikes, and runs. Simply playing a game of fetch or having some doggy friends over to romp around can help to strengthen your dog’s heart and improve their cardio. Anything to get their heart pumping! Plus, you get to exercise right along side them which is beneficial to your heart, too!
Keep Their Teeth Clean
Believe it or not, dental disease in dogs has a strong correlation to heart disease. As plaque and bacteria build up on their teeth, it can actually enter the bloodstream and clog your dog’s arteries. Over time, this can contribute to congestive heart failure. To prevent this, it’s important to brush your dog’s teeth regularly and allow them to chew toys that are designed for scraping teeth. Having a vet check their teeth and gums routinely is also a good idea, as removing bad teeth or having them professionally cleaned could be beneficial. Plus, no one likes stinky dog breath!
Get Regular Vet Checks
This one might seem obvious, but sometimes bringing your pup in for annual vet checks can slip through the cracks. Rather than waiting for something to happen before you make a vet appointment, it’s important to stay on top of your dog’s health and try to prevent and detect any signs of early heart disease. Even if your dog is young and in great shape, it never hurts to up their vet visits to bi-annual check ups just to make sure. After all, for every one year of our life, a dog’s is between four and nine, and lots can happen when you grow up that fast!
Treat for Heartworms
Dogs are, unfortunately, a natural host for a nasty parasite called a heartworm. Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes and enter your dog’s bloodstream when the mosquito injects microscopic larvae with its bite. The larvae then travel to the heart and grow into foot-long worms that clog the heart, lungs and arteries, causing serious complications and heart failure. That all sounds very scary, but luckily there is a simple solution! Heartworms can be easily prevented with a monthly topical solution, pill, or bi-annual shot. The key is just remembering to treat your dog regularly so they can enjoy the outdoors safely and without worry!
Know the Signs
Most cases of canine heart disease develop from an illness, injury, or infection rather than as a genetic trait, but it’s still important to know which breeds and age groups are most affected. Understanding and recognizing the signs of heart disease in your dogs could help to treat it early on. Important signs to look out for are difficulty breathing, coughing (especially after exercise), fatigue or weak muscles, pale gums, and abdominal swelling. If any of these signs occur, it’s important to consult your veterinary as soon as possible. Your dog depends on you for keeping their heart healthy and strong!
Remember, always talk to your dog’s veterinarian before changing their diet or if you have any concerns about their heart health. It’s important to get a professional’s opinion so you can both work towards having a healthier and happier lifestyle!