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Heart Failure in Dogs and Cats

Heart Failure in Dogs and Cats 

Natural treatments to help relieve symptoms related to congestive heart failure (CHF) in dogs and cats.

The heart is at the center of the cardiovascular system and requires critical trace nutrients to help nourish the cardiovascular system to keep it healthy and strong, as well as other vital organs linked to the cardiovascular system, including the liver, kidneys, and digestive systems. Proper supplementation may help support optimal cardiac function and muscle cell healing and regeneration, important preventative actions against heart disease.

Unbeknownst to many pet parents, our dogs and cats suffer heart related problems at a similar rate as humans. In fact, heart disease is referred to as the "silent killer" of many dogs and cats. If you suspect your pet has a heart problem, there is a simple blood test called Cardiopet proBNP Test that can help determine if your pet's heart is working beyond capacity and is at risk for heart disease. 

Similarly, Congestive Heart Failure in dogs and cats is a common, serious problem that typically affects older animals, however, can dogs and cats of any age and breed can also be affected.  Congestive heart disease is not the same as congestive heart failure. Heart disease is the underlying physical problem, whereas, heart failure is the consequence of heart disease. Although congestive heart failure is not curable, early detection and herbal treatments can greatly improve your pet’s quality of life and can possibly add longevity.

When congestive heart failure occurs, the heart is unable to pump sufficient blood through the animal body, leading to accumulating fluids in the lungs, chest and abdominal cavity. Congestive heart failure is the consequence of severe heart disease but can also be related to a genetic malformation of the heart muscle. 

Heart failure rarely results in the heart stopping to function suddenly in dogs and cats, but rather, is a gradual and progressive condition that worsens over time. Heart disease affects almost every part of the animal body. When a dog or cat has heart disease, parts of the heart cease to function properly, causing other parts to work harder. 

In Congestive Heart Failure, blood may also accumulate in the heart, lungs, or other major organs as blood vessels constrict and blood pressure builds. Due to excess pressure, fluid may leak out of the blood vessels (especially affecting the lungs and liver), causing congestion of the lungs, or fluid accumulation in the abdomen and/or other tissues. 

The symptoms associated with congestive heart failure vary depending upon the type of the underlying heart disease, and dogs and cats may display different symptoms, which can make diagnosis difficult.

Common symptoms include:

Unproductive coughing

Labored breathing

Increased panting

Shortness of breath 



General fatigue


Swollen, puffy legs


Exercise intolerance

Appetite and weight loss


Distended abdomen

Gray or bluish gums

Dogs and cats suffering from heart failure may stand with their front legs spread wide apart and their necks lowered and extended to let more air into the lungs.

If the right side of the heart is affected, your pet will have a swollen abdomen due to a fluid build-up, caused by a backup of blood within the abdominal vessels.

There are two broad categories of heart disease: acquired heart diseases and congenital heart diseases:

Acquired Heart Diseases

Acquired heart diseases are those that a dog or cat acquires over its lifetime, due to normal wear and tear, bacterial infections, injury, etc. Acquired heart diseases are common and represent about ninety-five percent of all cases of canine and feline heart disease.

Congenital Heart Disease

Congenital heart diseases result from a birth defect of the heart. This type of heart diseases is rare and only accounts for about five percent of all canine and feline heart diseases.

Common congenital heart diseases include:

dilated cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart)

atrial septal defect (hole in the heart)

mitral dysplasia (leaky mitral valve).

Common causes of acquired heart diseases include: 

Bacterial infections

Bacterial Infections related to the mouth, including diseased teeth and gums, enter the blood stream and attach to the heart valves, causing inflammation in the lining of the heart or in the valves. The inflammation can cause obstructions and damage to heart valves. Brushing  your pet's teeth regularly may help prevent dental problems that can lead to heart disease.


Heartworms can mechanically block the valves, and if a dog or cat is heavily infested, the heartworms can clog an entire heart chamber.


The parvovirus often infects the heart muscles, and can cause heart muscle cells to die and can lead to acute heart failure in dogs and cats.


Thyroid hormones can affect heart function and performance. Conditions such as hypothyroidism can slow heart rate. 

Nutritional Deficiencies

A lack of Vitamin E or selenium can cause damage to the heart muscles.

Herbal Nutrition - (listed in order of relevance and recommendation by holistic vets - human grade meets/exceeds highest safety criteria for pets)

Herbal remedies can be used as stand alone therapies or as adjunctive addition to conventional therapies, depending on the health and wellness of your animal. Herbal remedies have been used for millennia as a cardio tonic, to help improve the heart and circulatory systems, including healthy circulation and strong blood vessels, to help support healthy blood pressure, and for their benefits to the heart, circulatory and nervous systems.

Kick Start My Heart – (learn more)  is used holistically as a cardio tonic to help address all types of Heart Disease (Cardiomyopathy, Valvular Heart Disease, Congestive Heart Disease); to improve the heart and circulatory systems; to strengthen heart muscles; to reduce the risk of heart disease by maintaining heart health; to support muscle and cell healing for all parts of the body including the brain; to protect cell walls and to support strong blood vessels; to support the strength of veins and arteries and as a cognitive tonic; to stimulate alpha brain waves; to promote healthy brain function and for its benefits to the heart, circulatory and nervous systems. 

That’s A Nice Looking Bone – (learn more) used holistically to help address all types of Heart Disease (Cardiomyopathy, Valvular Heart Disease, Congestive Heart Disease), for all types of arthritis, osteoporosis, Degenerative Joint Disease and Intervertebral Disk Disease; for its genistein and daidzein isoflavone content which has a stimulatory effect on osteoblastic bone formation and an inhibitory effect on osteoclastic bone resorption and for bone mineral density, thereby increasing bone mass, for its ability to help restore lost cartilage and to support veins and arteries and to help increase vascular elasticity.

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart  (learn more) provides nutrients that reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, and the risk of coronary cardiac heart and coronary disease, removes fat from arterial walls, for arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis; supports cardiac and circulatory function, supports the strength of veins, arteries and healthy blood circulation to the brain, balances blood sugar levels, for diabetes, for hypertension, combats degenerative diseases including arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis, for Heart Disease, Congestive Heart Disease (CHD), Cardiomyopathy, Valvular Heart Disease, Endocardiosis, Ischemic Heart Disease, Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and as a stroke preventative.

Body Bliss – (learn more) is used holistically as a plant based, full spectrum Omega 3; for its anti-inflammatory, auto-immune, antioxidant and free radical scavenging (disease preventive) actions; for its heart healthy effects; as a potential heart and blood vessel disease preventive; for its essential fatty acid content which may be help to prevent blood clots (thrombus); to help address myocardial infraction and cerebral apoplexy; may help address symptoms of Crohn’s disease, disseminated sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, for its nutritive content which may help to nourish the body and strengthen and revitalize skin; for its nutritional value to help protect and promote bone, eye, teeth, joint, ligaments and connective tissue health while keeping your pet's coat healthy and glowing, from the inside out.

Yelp for Kelp - (learn more) provides critical vitamins, amino and fatty acids and trace macro and micronutrient support for the endocrine system, to energize the body, for building and toning enzymes, tissues, hormones and bones, for enhancing natural cleansing and detoxification, to help nutritionally support a balanced immune system; to help support healthy skin and coat;  as an osteoporosis preventative, to promote immunity and for metabolic disorders, including the thyroid gland and other glands and tissues that affect the thyroid, for thyroid disorders, to cleanse the lymphatic system, to maintain healthy levels of TSH, T3 and T4, and for metabolic disorders.

Conventional Remedies:

The diagnosis of congestive heart failure is based on the symptoms present, thorough physical examination and review of your pet’s medical history. Additional diagnostic tests such as blood tests, x-rays, ultrasound of the chest, heartworm test, fluid analysis and ECG (electrocardiogram) may be performed to rule out any other conditions and confirm the diagnosis of congestive heart failure.

Treatment for congestive heart failure involves various procedures and medications to help the heart pump more effectively. In more severe cases, certain procedures such as tapping or thoracentesis are performed to remove excess fluid from the chest as well as oxygen supplementation and surgery may be required.

Medications such as diuretics, ACE enzyme inhibitors, a digitalis-type drug, low-sodium diet with supplements and drugs to prevent heartworm infection will be prescribed. Your vet may also recommend a special diet to reduce sodium (salt) intake to control fluid retention. Although congestive heart failure cannot be cured, with proper treatment and management, your pet can continue to live a longer life.








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