If you or someone you know has ever been told by a doctor to reduce sodium intake, there could be a multitude of reasons – most to do with improving heart health. The same is true for your pet. If your dog has been diagnosed with heart disease, your veterinarian could recommend a low-sodium diet that could both improve your pet's longevity and reduce the heart medications required.
Guideline For Feeding Dogs With Heart Disease
There are two methods of ensuring your dog consumes low sodium while still getting the nutrition they need: specially formulated dog food, or preparing/following a low-sodium diet at home. If pet parents decide to prepare their pet's diet at home, they need to ensure their dog is getting the vitamins and nutrients they need for optimal health. In the case of dogs with heart disease and other conditions, this is especially important.
At-Home Meal Preparation For Dogs With Heart Disease
The most important aspect of your dog's therapeutic diet is low sodium. While it might be easy to avoid sprinkling salt in food, there are several foods that you may be surprised to learn are too high in sodium to be included in your dog's diet. Below are some pointers on what you should and should not feed your pooch:
- Meat must be fresh (this is usually lower in sodium) and it is advised to stick to (lean) beef, pork, and chicken
- Avoid all shellfish, cured meats, deli meat, hot dogs/sausage, beef jerky, or offal like brains and kidney
- Do not use any salt, seasoning salts, etc in cooking
- Don't give your dog any cereals (unless it's low-sodium puffed wheat)
- Avoid all milk products (small amounts of unsalted cottage cheese or low-sodium cheddar are occasionally permissible)
- No salted butter, margarine, or fat from salted meats
- Canned vegetables must be salt-free
- Snacks like salted nuts, potato chips, pickles, brown sugar, olives, candy, and peanut butter are not advised
Foods like bland macaroni, unsalted cooked white rice, and home-cooked meat can be the foundation of a nutritious diet for your dog. For example, a recipe consisting of 1/4-pound ground lean beef (cooked until lightly browned) 2 cups cooked unsalted white rice, a tablespoon of vegetable oil, and one tablet of Pet-Cal supplement is a tasty and healthy meal for your dog. Add other supplements as recommended or prescribed by your veterinarian, and aim to feed your pet 1/3 – 1/2 pounds for every 10 pounds of body weight every day. Remember to watch your dog's sodium intake – the maximum amount should be 6mg per pound of body weight.
Important note: Home cooking is appealing to some pet parents for a variety of reasons, but as it requires a great deal of careful portioning and ensuring that there are no vitamin, mineral, or other nutritional deficiencies, we do not recommend it without close veterinary supervision. If you choose to cook at home for your dog, it is vital to clear your recipes with your vet first. A well-meaning gesture could ultimately hurt your four-legged friend in the long run.
Specialty Commercial Foods For Dogs With Heart Disease
Heart disease in dogs often occurs in conjunction with chronic kidney disease (CKD). Dogs with these conditions can benefit from specific therapeutic nutrient profiles present in some foods. These must be obtained from your veterinarian by prescription, so it is critical to work with your veterinarian to make sure your dog is eating the most appropriate food.
Your vet will ensure that the food they recommend to your pet addresses the following concerns:
Phosphorus. This is mainly a concern for dogs with CKD, but as it cooccurs with heart disease it should still be addressed in your dog's diet. Phosphorus should be limited to 0.2% - 0.52% DM.
Potassium. Your dog's potassium serum levels should be monitored, but a good base level of potassium is 0.4% - 0.52% DM. If your pet is on certain kinds of diuretic drugs, they may require supplementation.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids. The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA could help heart muscle cells. While no optimal dose of omega-3 acids has been determined yet, your vet can advise you on a supplement that will be easily absorbed by your dog's body.
Generally, a good nutritional plan for a dog with heart disease is low in sodium and chloride, with the other elements that your dog needs. Your vet can help you choose the best food for the different stages of your dog's disease progression.
What If My Dog Won't Eat Their New Food?
Our pets don't understand the importance of a therapeutic diet to help them feel better, so you may encounter some stubbornness. If your dog refuses to eat their new good, don't give up! Try mixing in small amounts of the old food with the new, heart-health-focused food. While not the ultimate solution, it will still somewhat lower their daily sodium intake. If the refusal continues, you may need to consult with your vet about changing foods or methods to coax your canine companion to eat.
Your primary vet and veterinary team is always your best resource when it comes to your dog's special diet!
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.