Heart Disease is common in dogs. There are several types of heart problems that dogs can get. Giant dogs like Great Danes and Dobermans can have problems with the muscle of the heart. This is called Cardiomyopathy. The heart muscle has a genetic problem in these dogs and literally wears out. Some large breed dogs like Boxers have their own breed related Cardiomyopathy. Small breed dogs are more likely to suffer from heart valve problems which cause congestive heart failure. The heart valves leak and it is difficult for the blood to flow forward properly. This causes fluid to build up in the abdomen and in the lungs. The poor little dog may cough and have difficulty breathing. Poodles, shihtzu and cocker spaniels suffer commonly from this when they age. Heart conditions such as heartworm ( a parasite that lives in the heart, carried by mosquitoes), heart rhythm disturbances and tumors are among other possible heart problems that dogs may face.
Commonly a heart murmur may be picked up by a veterinarian at a routine exam. This heart murmur may be an innocent murmur or may indicate a valvular problem. It is best to have this investigated with chest radiographs, electrocardiograms and possible ultrasound. Many times a referral to a veterinary cardiologist ( a heart specialist for animals) is indicated.
Depending on the diagnosis a conventional medication may be recommended along with a diet change. Congestive heart disease, heartworm, cardiomyopathy and heart rhythm disturbances are treated with different medication both conventionally and holistically. There are some holistic supplements that can be given to strengthen and support the heart whatever the diagnosis. Some that I commonly recommend are Coenzyme Q 10, Omega 3 fatty acids, L-Carnitine and Taurine. These supplements are all very safe. Acupuncture can also help the heart to increase the strength of contraction and can be used for any heart condition. Chinese and western herbs should be used with caution as these may interfere with conventional medication. I usually do not recommend to use herbals along with conventional medication. One herbal that has been used as a single herb for heart problems is Hawthorne ( berry and leaf). It works best for congestive problems and not cardiomyopathy. On its own, it is not strong enough to treat severe congestive heart issues, but it can support a failing heart. PetWellbeing.com carries a herbal combination called Hearty Heart. It should not be used along with conventional medication but can be used for support for a dog with a heart murmur, or undergoing heartworm treatment.