Heart Disease

Heart Disease Holistic Protocol for Dogs and Cats has been developed by a certified Master Herbalist and certified Canine Nutritionist with The Pet Health and Nutrition Center. Our Heart Disease Protocol is the finest coordination of science and research-based recommendations that include diet, supplementation and herbal remedies to help support your dog or cat with cardiovascular disease. Everyone here at The Pet Health and Nutrition Center truly cares and wants to help your pet get better.

1. What is Heart Failure in Dogs and Cats?

Heart failure is a general term used to describe what is essentially a weak, ineffectual muscle. The muscle in this case is the heart of the dog or cat that can not provide an adequate blood supply to the body. A normal heart has strong, muscular walls that contract to pump blood out to all parts of the body. With heart failure the muscle of the heart slowly weakens and enlarges preventing the heart from pumping enough blood. Heart failure is called congestive heart failure when fluid builds up in various parts of the body.

What is Congestive Heart Failure in Cats and Dogs?

Heart failure is a term used to describe the inability of a particular heart valve to properly pump blood. This condition is then referred to as congestive heart failure in a dog or at when this lack of proper pumping by heart valves results in the build up of fluid in the lungs, abdomen or peripheral limbs of your pet. CHF occurs because the inefficient pumping action of the heart allows blood to back up into small blood vessels. As the pressure in these blood vessels increases fluid is pushed out into surrounding open spaces where it accumulates.

What are the Primary Types of Heart Disease?

Left-sided congestive heart failure also known as mitral valve insufficiency (MVI) occurs when the heart contracts or pumps, instead of the left ventricle pushing the blood into the systemic circulation, some leaks through the mitral valve back into the left atrium and then it backs up into small blood vessels in the lungs. Fluid then seeps into the lung tissue resulting in pulmonary edema. This causes the classic signs of heart failure - coughing and fluid in the chest.

Right-sided congestive heart failure causes poor venous return to the heart. In other words, when the heart contracts or "pumps", instead of the right ventricle pushing the blood through the lungs for oxygenation, some leaks through the tricuspid valve (the valve between the right atrium and right ventricle) back into the right atrium. This blood backs up into the systemic circulation (the main circulation of the body) and consequently becomes "congested". As pressure builds in small blood vessels fluid is forced out and accumulates in the abdomen interfering with the function of the organs in these areas. The abdomen may fill with fluid, a condition called ascites. Fluid may also leak from veins in the limbs, causing swelling, known as peripheral edema.

How to treat congestive heart failure in dogs and cats?

There are two ways of approaching heart disease in our pets - conventionally or naturally. In conventional veterinary medicine pharmaceutical drugs are used to control symptoms. These drugs may be used to help strengthen the heart’s pumping action, dilate blood vessels to make it easier for blood to flow or help to remove excess fluid (diuretics). This can also be done with natural supplements and herbal remedies that can be safer with less side-effects. Hawthorn is an herb that helps to dilate blood vessels and strengthen the heart muscle while an herb call gingko biloba is an amazing circulatory tonic. Nettle and dandelion leaf are herbs that act as potassium-rich, gentle diuretics. Of course, it doesn’t have to be one way or the other as both modalities can be used together. Just be aware that if you add herbal supplements to your pet’s heart failure regimen their medications may have to be adjusted.

2. Causes and Symptoms of Heart Failure in Dogs and Cats

What are the causes of heart failure in dogs and cats?

Heart failure in dogs and cats is most commonly caused by valvular insufficiency. This is very different from people in which the primary cause is usually coronary artery disease prompted by the buildup of fatty deposits called plaque that constrict blood supply to the heart. There can be a number of different causes of the damage to heart valves that include:

  • Chemical exposure from flea and tick products. Research has shown that chemicals in these products can damage the valves of your pet's heart
  • Low protein (or poor quality protein) diets that lead to weakening of this important muscle
  • Heart birth defects
  • Infection of the heart and/or heart valves
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid issues
  • High blood pressure
  • Abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmias)
  • Side effects of certain medications

What are symptoms of heart failure in dogs and cats?

Heart failure symptoms develop over time as the heart becomes weaker and unable to pump the blood your dog or cat's body needs. Symptoms of heart failure in our domestic animals depends on which side of the heart is damaged. If your pet has left-sided congestive heart failure they will display the classic signs of heart failure - decreased stamina, coughing or difficulty breathing (due to the enlarged heart pushing against the trachea) - because of fluid backing up into the lungs called pulmonary edema. With right-sided congestive heart failure fluid may accumulate in the abdomen or in the limbs known as peripheral edema. Symptoms of heart failure in dogs and cats include:

  • Coughing / shortness of breath when at rest / laying down
  • Coughing or wheezing when playing / exercising
  • Fluid buildup in legs / paws and/or abdomen
  • Excessive panting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swollen belly
  • Pale or bluish gums
  • Generalized weight loss
  • Muscle wasting

Are there warning signs for heart failure in dogs and cats?

A warning sign, or precursor, of heart failure in your dog or cat is an enlarged heart. This is due to the fact that because of some sort of damage to the heart muscle it has to work harder and as a result the heart muscle thickens to compensate for the extra work. However, this is just a stopgap measure and if what is contributing to your animal's heart disease is not controlled, over time the heart muscle will get weaker and chronic heart failure will result in your dog or cat.

Can my dog or cat's heart failure be reversed?

Reversal of the diagnosis of heart failure may or may not be possible depending on the cause and the severity of the condition. If the heart valves have been damaged by some cause then reversal would not be possible. However, if a diagnosis is made of a heart condition in your dog or cat, and is the result of poor diet or a separate underlying health complaint then reversal of the condition may be possible. Regardless of the cause, most cases of heart disease, even CHF, will be addressed in a similar manner. Nutrients that can help to strengthen the heart muscle should be provided along with herbs that can help the heart to function more efficiently. In addition, there are herbs such as dandelion and nettle leaf that can help to balance fluid levels in the body should they begin to accumulate. If the condition progresses to congestive heart failure medications can be used when needed for the dog or cat’s quality of life.

How common is heart failure in dogs and cats?

Unfortunately, heart failure is becoming more and more common in our pets. In our experience this is primarily a result of two things. The first is the increase in the use of low-protein, or poor-quality protein, pet foods. These kibble diets do not provide the proper amount of high-quality protein OR they provide protein sources that have inadequate, or incomplete, amino acid profiles. A good example of an incomplete protein added to pet foods would be pea protein and, much worse, is a poor-quality protein source called hydrolized chicken meal that can be comprised primarily of chicken feathers! Secondly, with the increase in the use of pharmaceutical drugs for animals and the use of topical flea and tick pesticides, comes the potentially serious side-effects. These side-effects can include changes in the heart and/or heart rhythm, and subsequent damage to your dog or cat's heart valves resulting in chronic heart failure.

How long does heart failure last in dogs and cats?

Heart failure life expectancy is closely related to the cause/severity of the diagnosis. If the cause of your dog or cat’s heart failure is a damaged valve, this will eventually progress to congestive heart failure. On the other hand, if the diagnosis is heart disease or a heart "condition" and is the result of a poor diet or a thyroid issue, then your dog or cat's diagnosis may be able to be reversed, or efficiently managed, with the proper diet and supplement regimen, and not progress to CHF.

With proper support of the cardiovascular system animals can live close to a normal life expectancy with heart disease. However, if this progresses to a situation in which the heart does not pump adequately and fluid buildup occurs, called congestive heart failure, life expectancy for dogs and cats is generally 6 months to 2 years.

When should I consider euthanizing my dog or cat with heart failure?

First, let me say that a diagnosis of heart failure is not necessarily an imminent "death sentence". With the right protocol your dog or cat may be able to live their normal lifespan, or close to it, depending on the severity of the condition at the time the proper cardiovascular support is begun.

Having said that, euthanasia of a family pet is always a difficult, personal decision. In the case of congestive heart failure our recommendation would be to consider this option when your dog or cat has become so uncomfortable, due to fluid buildup, that their quality of life has declined to the point where they are no longer happy. Though it is very difficult to pick the “right” time, we try to recommend not to wait until the bitter end that prompts a midnight trip to the emergency vet. Instead, have a special last day, make your animal comfortable and arrange for a veterinarian to visit your home. You know your animal and if you pay attention you will be able to tell when they are tired of fighting and ready to go. Also, at this difficult time, we often recommend an animal communicator that can let you know what your animal is feeling so you can use this information to help make your decision.

3. Standard Veterinary Medicine Approach

Diagnostic testing for heart failure in dogs and cats

There are a number of different testing methods veterinarians use to diagnose heart failure in dogs and cats that include:

  • Auscultation which is listening to the heart with a stethoscope. This is usually the vet's first step in diagnosing heart disease. Heart murmurs are detected by auscultation; the murmur's location and intensity helps determine its significance. The heart rhythm is assessed, and if there are concerns, the veterinarian may simultaneously palpate or feel the pulse to determine its strength and rhythm. Finally, the lungs are assessed, looking for evidence of changes associated with heart failure.
  • electrocardiogram (ECG) measures the electrical activity of the heart and allows accurate determination of both heart rate and rhythm. Any abnormal rhythms (arrhythmias or dysrhythmias) can be detected and evaluated.
  • Ultrasound examination (echocardiogram) utilizes ultrasound waves to evaluate the heart. The size and thickness of each heart chamber can be evaluated, and the effectiveness of the heart's contractions can be directly observed. Measurements can be taken to evaluate the heart's pumping efficiency.
  • Chest x-rays are taken to evaluate the size and shape of the heart and look for lung changes such as the presence of fluid
  • Blood and urine tests can give an idea of liver and kidney function that are often impaired in animals with heart disease.

Medial treatment for dogs and cats with heart failure

Veterinary treatment will make use of medications to help control symptoms your dog or cat is experiencing. These include:

  • Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. These drugs dilate blood vessels and moderate excess hormone activity that occurs with heart failure, resulting in less resistance in the blood vessels against which the heart must pump. These drugs have improved clinical signs of heart failure and prolonged survival in several studies. An ACE inhibitor may be the only drug needed early in the disease process. Adverse effects of ACE inhibitors could include vomiting or diarrhea, deterioration of kidney function, elevation of blood potassium levels, or low blood pressure (hypotension).
  • Diuretics are used to promote the loss of excess fluid in animals with congestive heart failure. The dosage varies depending on the clinical situation and the patient’s response, but generally the lowest dose that controls signs of congestion is used for chronic therapy. Adverse effects of these drugs are usually related to excessive fluid and/or electrolyte losses (especially potassium) resulting in dehydration and weakness.
  • Drugs that act to strengthen heart muscle contraction and also moderate excessive neurohormonal activity that occurs with heart failure and helps control certain heart rhythm abnormalities. The toxic effects of these drugs can be serious and even life threatening so the drug must be carefully dosed. Monitoring of the drug concentration in the blood is recommended. This is often done 7 to 10 days after starting the drug or after making a dosage change. The blood sample is taken 8 to 10 hours after a dose of the drug has been given. Reduced kidney function, dehydration, loss of lean muscle mass, low blood potassium levels, and certain drugs increase the potential for toxicity. Adverse/toxic effects can include heart rhythm disturbances, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and depression.
  • Calcium channel blockers are used to help control certain heart rhythm disturbances and to promote heart muscle relaxation in hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (especially in cats). In dogs with atrial fibrillation (a rapid, irregular, abnormal heart rhythm) it may be used with other drugs to slow the rate of the heartbeat.
  • Beta-blockers that antagonize the effects of the sympathetic nervous system, and thereby slow the heart rate, reduce the heart’s oxygen demand, and help control certain heart rhythm disturbances. A beta-blocker may be used with other drugs to slow the heartbeat in dogs with atrial fibrillation. A beta-blocker may be useful in cats with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy as well as animals with certain congenital heart malformations. Adverse effects can include excessively slow heart rate, worsening of heart failure, low blood pressure, bronchospasm, depressed attitude, and possibly masking early signs of low blood sugar (especially in diabetics).

4. Natural Heart Failure Protocol for Dogs and Cats

The goal of our Natural Heart Failure Protocol is to support and strengthen this very important organ that is responsible for distributing oxygen-rich blood throughout the body and returning carbon dioxide loaded blood back to the lungs. When medications are used to accomplish this alone, the heart will never get healthier because drugs are used to replace the body's natural healing abilities.

If your dog or cat's condition is serious enough where medication is required for their comfort, such as with congestive heart failure, our protocol can play an important supportive role. If medications can be reduced when using our protocol this must be done in conjunction with your veterinarian so your animal can be properly monitored.

Heart Failure Therapy for Dogs and Cats Testimonial

Heart Failure in Dogs Client Testimionial

"I can’t begin to say enough great things about Maria and Phil. They have truly saved our fur babies lives! We really thought we were going to lose our 14 year old chihuahua Charlie & 12 year old pomeranian back in December of 2018. Both had been diagnosed with IBD a couple years back, and were suffering from pancreatic flare ups and collapsing tracheas. Charlie also has heart disease, while Daniel was diagnosed with thyroid disease. They were both on a TON of Rx meds, and were not looking or feeling very good at all. They both ate very inconsistently, and Daniel always had loose stool, while Charlie was frequently vomiting. I was desperate to find something that would help make them feel better, and luckily came across the Pet Health & Nutrition Center website. I reached out via email, and Maria got back to me the very next day. She recommended some great supplements and tonics which I immediately got both Charlie & Daniel started on. She even helped us find a brand of food that worked for both of them. They have never been on one consistent brand of food for this long until now! We were also able to get both of them off most of their Rx meds, which we never thought was possible. Both of them have been more stable than they have been in years, and we owe it all to Maria and Phil. Whenever I have a question or concern (which happened pretty frequently at the beginning), I immediately email Maria (not even our vet or internal medicine doctor) for advice. She is still more than willing to help me out even 8 months after I first reached out! I 100% trust her opinion and am so thankful we have her to turn to in times of need. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Maria & Phil saved our fur babies lives. So to anyone out there reading this, DO NOT give up on your fur babies without contacting the PH&NC first. Thank you so much Maria & Phil!
-M. Stokke

Charlie had his annual heart re-check and the Dr. said it looks great! It’s actually smaller than it was last year, and no progression in anything. I have to think this is all from the heart glandular and tonic he’s been taking for over a year now! Thank you so much for everything you’ve done for them! Just wanted to let you know again how much we appreciate you and all the advice you’ve given to us over the past year :)

Core Recommendations Suggested products are included in the Core Heart Failure Package found below.

Our "Core Recommendations" form the backbone of our Natural Heart Failure Protocol for dogs and cats. They consist of the supplement recommendations we feel are the most important to provide to your animal companion for this condition. They are displayed individually or as a package at the bottom of this page along with other helpful supplements for heart failure from which you may make additional selections. Pet foods can be purchased at your finer, local pet stores. If you desire more individualized attention please feel free to use our Consultation Form to provide detailed information about your dog or cat's heart failure symptoms so we can better help you.

Vitamin Natural Remedies for Cats with Congestive Heart Failure

  Core Recommendation #1 - Daily Multi Plus

Our Daily Multi Plus is formulated with organic, whole foods that are extremely important to an animal's nutritional needs but are often missing from the majority of canine and feline diets. This special formula provides the enzymes, probiotics, prebiotics, glandulars, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients that are so beneficial to the body's daily maintenance and repair needs for healthy aging. In this formula you will find the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants recommended by the veterinarian community for dogs and cats with congestive heart failure - only in an organic, whole food form!

Heart Tonic Dog Congestive Heart Failure Natural Treatments

  Core Recommendation #2 - Heart Tonic

This formula contains herbs that have an amazing supportive role for the dog or cat with heart failure. It provides natural, whole-food nutrients that have similar actions to many of the medications veterinarians prescribe for CHF. The important difference is that Heart Tonic will also help to strengthen the heart without the numerous drug side-effects. This formula is safe to use in conjunction with medications, when they are necessary. Your veterinarian should be aware that you are using this formula as medication dosages will often be able to be adjusted lower or possibly even eliminated in certain instances for your dog or cat with heart failure.

Heart Glandular Natural Remedies for Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

  Core Recommendation #2 - Heart Glandular

Nutrients from supplemented glandulars travel to the corresponding gland in your dog or cat to support that organ, in this case the heart, with natural, whole-food nutrients. This is very important as studies have shown that natural nutrients are much better utilized by the body than their synthetic copies. This glandular tissue is a great natural source of carnitine and taurine among numerous other amino acids and nutrients that support cardiovascular health in your dog or cat with congestive heart failure.

Highly Recommended

Biopreparation Microalgae as Holistic Treatment for Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

 BioPreparation Microalgae Formula

This special blend of four unique algae was developed by a Russian Scientist, Dr. Michael Kiriac after decades of research. It is grown in controlled hydroponic conditions so it is the purest microalgae supplement on the planet. Its thousand of nutrients are so bioavailable they do not have to be digested, they easily pass through the digestive tract and feed cells on a cellular level to greatly benefit a weak heart muscle. BioPreparation can cross the blood brain barrier to feed the brain, support the hypothalamus to help balance the entire endocrine system and even cross the blood retinal barrier to nurture the eyes. This could be considered another Core product and is highly recommended for those dogs and cats with heart failure. Select the F3+ Forte for this condition.

Best Food for a Dog with Heart Failure

  Whole Food Nutrition

With a serious condition like congestive heart failure, in which the body needs the highest value nutrition possible so it has the energy necessary to heal itself, we highly recommend a raw food diet. Raw food is how carnivores, like canines and felines, have evolved to eat and they do best on a high protein, low carbohydrate diet. This is, unfortunately, the opposite of how most pets are fed since the majority of commercial diets are low protein with 50% or more carbohydrates.

In addition, kibble diets are harder for an animal to digest and this is the last thing your canine or feline needs at this point. Since maintaining lean muscle is very important to those dogs and cats with heart failure without the right nutrition that is easily digested, absorbed and metabolized your animal will have a more difficult time getting better. If a raw food diet is not your cup of tea, the next best thing would be a cooked, whole food diet. There are now many quality premixes to choose from to which you can add your own raw or cooked meat. If you decide to make a homemade diet please research the proper way to do this and make sure to add a calcium source. For a quick and easy way to add high-quality protein to your pets diet take a look at our Whey Protein Isolate. For more information on proper diet for your dog or cat with congestive heart failure read our articles How to Feed Your Dog or How to Feed Your Cat that can be found in our Education section.

Chia Seed Oil Natural Remedies for Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

  Chia Seed Oil

This organic chia seed oil is the richest plant-source of omega 3 fatty acids. It also has the highest ratio of anti-inflammatory omega 3's to inflammatory omega 6's when compared to flax and hemp seed oils. It is also a sustainable, environmentally-friendly alternative to fish oil. Chia oil can help to not only lower blood pressure but also to keep blood vessels healthy which is important for a struggling cardiovascular system like that in dogs and cats with heart failure.

Proteolytic Enzymes Holistic Treatment for Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

  Systemic Enzymes

Our systemic enzymes contain a highly-researched, custom blend of enzymes that will work to keep blood vessels clear of plaque buildup. In addition, this superb formula contains an enzyme called nattokinase that is a specialized enzyme included to help control the buildup of fibrin in blood vessels that will benefit a dog or cat with congestive heart failure by helping to maintain healthy blood pressure.


What is pulmonary edema? Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/pulmonary-edema

What does it mean to have an enlarged heart? Retrieved from https://www.everydayhealth.com/heart-failure/living-with/what-does-it-mean-have-enlarged-heart/

What is heart failure? Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@hcm/documents/downloadable/ucm_300315.pdf

Ward, E., DVM. Congestive heart failure in dogs. Retrieved from https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/congestive-heart-failure-in-dogs

Nelson, O.L., DVM. Medications commonly used for heart failure. Retrieved from http://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/outreach/Pet-Health-Topics/categories/miscellaneous-health-care-topics/medications-commonly-used-for-heart-failure

5. Natural Remedies for Dogs and Cats with Heart Failure

Heart Support Package for Dogs and Cats
Our Heart Disease Package for Dogs and Cats consists of the three products we consider to form the foundation of our Natural Heart Disease Protocol. This supplement package for dogs and cats with congestive heart failure is a research-based protocol developed...
from $66.85
Daily Multi Plus for Dogs and Cats
Our Daily Multi Plus is a premier supplement for dogs and cats featuring organic, whole food nutrition. This 3-supplements-in-1 formula was created in response to our clients’ requests to simplify their animal’s supplement regimen and is sure to exceed even...
from $26.95
Heart Tonic for Dogs and Cats
Heart Tonic for dogs and cats is the premier cardiovascular remedy for animals formulated using USDA ORGANIC HERBS and USP ORGANIC VEGETABLE GLYCERIN with NO added ingredients like chemical flavorings. Formulated by a certified Master Herbalist this heart failure remedy uses...
from $25.95
Heart Glandular for Dogs and Cats
Heart Glandular for dogs and cats is the Best source of natural nutrients for the heart like taurine and carnitine. Since commercial processed pet food ingredients are generally deficient in taurine and other nutrients, the addition of laboratory synthesized vitamins...
BioPreparation F2 F3 for Dogs and Cats
BioPreparation is more than just a spirulina supplement for dogs and cats. It is a blend a FOUR microalgae strains, chosen from thousands, that make this supplement FAR superior to ordinary synthesized vitamin & isolated mineral supplements(1)! Biopreparation F2 Core...
from $29.00
Systemic Enzyme Formula for Dogs
Our Systemic Enzyme Formula for dogs is a unique enzyme blend developed to help relieve a number of very common imbalances your canine may experience during the course of his lifetime. Systemic enzymes are taken between meals providing anti-inflammatory, detoxifying,...
from $19.95
Buck Mountain Botanicals Hawthorn
Buck Mountain Botanicals Organic Hawthorn has multiple high efficacy for cardiovascular ailments in dogs and cats. Hawthorn berries have long been considered one of nature's best and safest heart and vascular tonics. Buck Mountain Botanicals Hawthorn helps by: Dilating blood...
Chia Seed Oil for Dogs and Cats
Organic Chia Seed Oil for dogs and cats is the perfect choice for providing omega-3 fatty acids from an organic, sustainable source. Chia seed oil has become our preferred method for supplying anti-inflammatory, essential omega-3 fatty acids(1) that are very...
Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Pet
Nordic Naturals Omega 3 Fish Oil Supplement for Pets provides the health-promoting and anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA derived from 100% wild anchovies and sardines exclusively from the Norwegian Sea to the Southern Pacific Ocean depending on their...
from $16.95
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