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From VetChef vets and nutritionists

Heart health in dogs

The heart - the engine of our dogs - is made of specialised muscle which contracts to efficiently pump blood around the body and works closely with the respiratory system to reoxygenate it. Within the body are thousands of miles of blood vessels carrying nutrients and waste products, from large main arteries taking blood away from the heart to tiny capillaries delivering oxygen to tissues.

Heart disease

Cardiovascular disease and heart failure are common conditions in dogs: up to one third of non-accidental deaths can be caused by heart conditions. Some breeds are more likely to suffer from heart disease due to genetic factors, including Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Boxers and Dobermans, but heart conditions can affect any breed of dog.

Obesity greatly affects heart health, increasing both pulse rate and blood pressure, and impairing exercise tolerance.

Common signs of heart disease include coughing, fatigue, and fluid retention.

Nutritional support needed for heart disease

Diet can play a key role in the management and long term outlook for dogs suffering from heart disease.

  • An important requirement of a suitable diet for dogs suffering from heart disease is to avoid excess salt levels as salt is retained as a result of heart disease which can lead to fluid retention and the worsening of symptoms.

  • One heart condition, dilated cardiomyopathy, is associated with low levels of the amino acid taurine in the diet, with some breeds such as Newfoundlands, Labradors, Dalmatians, Bulldogs, and Portuguese water dogs seeming to be more susceptible to the effects of low taurine.

  • Levels of minerals potassium and magnesium can affect the rhythm and contraction-power of the heart, and this can be a particular issue in dogs with deficiencies of these minerals caused by a poor diet or interactions with specific drugs.

  • And finally, there is some evidence to suggest that omega 3 fatty acids can be beneficial in helping dogs suffering from cardiac arrhythmias, where the heart is not beating regularly.

If your dog suffers from any form of heart disease, VetChef nutritionists will be able to help by providing suitable recipes and supplements for your dog to ensure they receive the ideal long-term nutritional support for their condition.

Benefits of feeding heart to your dog

As well as looking after your dog's heart with a suitable diet, heart meat itself can provide an excellent source of nutrients for all dogs as it contains some important nutrients:

  • Coenzyme Q10 protects cell membranes against oxidation.

  • Zinc, selenium and phosphorus, which are all essential nutrients for your dog.

  • Taurine is a non-essential amino acid for dogs as they can make their own from other amino acids. However, it is highly concentrated in heart muscle and is thereby beneficial to add to your dog’s food.


Dove RS. Nutritional therapy in the treatment of heart disease in dogs. Altern Med Rev. 2001 Sep;6 Suppl:S38-45. PMID: 11591172.

Small Animal Clinical Nutrition - 5th Edition - Various Authors

USDA Database (US Department of Agriculture) Food Database

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