I’m blessed to work with so many talented veterinarians. These men and women have big hearts for wet noses. But for many of us, no matter who we are, we often take our heart for granted—until it gives us problems. And I think we do the same with our pets. Many times we don’t give a second thought to their heart when they have health issues with other organs. But since nothing in the body works independently of itself, we need to realize that as soon as one organ begins to fail, other organs will try to compensate. When healthy organs are forced to work even harder because of a failing organ, they must be supported with good nutrition so they can continue to function properly.
Many factors predispose or influence heart function in our pets, and the same is true for us. Obesity, lung disease, kidney disease, liver disease, stress, drug therapy, heartworm infection, gingivitis—all of this can have an impact. Luckily, the heart is extremely receptive to nutrition. We know that diet is an important part of medical therapy for heart disease, and pet owners play a crucial role. Proper nutrition may slow the progression of the disease, minimize the number of medications required, and improve the quality of life.
I’d like to share a wonderful story about a little rescue dog who was much loved by his pet parents. “Bryce” was an 11-year-old male neutered Maltese weighing 7 pounds when he was first seen by one of my veterinary accounts, Dr. Elizabeth Carney, in September 2010. Bryce had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure at a neighboring clinic and was prescribed the regular medications for heart disease. During his initial exam, he had a palpable thrill (you could feel his heart murmur) on his left chest wall and a Grade 4/5 murmur with a wet cough. He was also thin (BCS 3/9) and had severe periodontal disease. His diet consisted of all cooked food without a balance of macro or micro nutrients.
In spite of the advanced condition of the disease, Dr. Carney managed to get Bryce through this crisis. By the next summer, after Dr. Carney learned of Standard Process Veterinary Formulas, she started Bryce on Canine Cardiac Support at ? teaspoon orally once a day. During an exam in June 2012, Dr. Carney noted no wet cough and a decrease in both the palpable thrill and the volume of the murmur. In January of 2013 she added Canine Hepatic Support at ? teaspoon daily in response to elevations in liver values on his blood work. Due to improvement in his heart condition, she discontinued one of his heart meds and cut the other two heart medication doses in half. Following these changes, his appetite improved and his heart condition remained stable. New blood work in June 2013 showed normal liver values. But in October 2013, although still on his supplement program, his cardiac signs worsened. These were managed with an increase in his heart medications. He was still doing well until the end of January 2014, but at the age of 14½, he became worse and deteriorated rapidly. Eventually, due to the poor prognosis, Bryce was euthanized.
Dr. Carney said, “This case showed me clearly the power of targeted nutrition, particularly in a dog with severe systemic disease that could not or would not eat a balanced diet. He had good quality of life for over 3 years beyond his initial diagnosis of congestive heart failure, at which time he was given a poor prognosis for long-term survival. Bryce’s owners are beyond grateful to have had that time with him. They now have two young adult Maltese, both of whom take Whole Body Support and Cardiac Support daily, with an eye toward good long-term health.”
What are you doing to take care of the hearts in your family?