Heart Failure 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 Congestive Heart Failure 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 heart failure. Everyone here at The Pet Health and Nutrition Center truly cares and wants to help your pet get better, so give our suggestions a try because we are confident you will be pleased with the results.
On this protocol page we will talk about your dog or cat's congestive heart failure treatment options, what happens to an animal with this condition, lifestyle changes that can improve the disease, and supplements & remedies for canines and felines that can help with this holistic therapy to manage the symptoms and improve the quality of life for your family pet with heart failure.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There are a number of different testing methods veterinarians use to diagnose heart failure in dogs and cats that include:
Veterinary treatment will make use of medications to help control symptoms your dog or cat is experiencing. These include:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 like our Seaweed Calcium. 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.
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.
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