Supporting heart health in dogs and cats through diet

You can support your patients’ heart health with a deeper understanding of which foods, herbs and supplements help this vital organ thrive.

The different parts of a dog or cat’s body must function well together in order to keep him healthy. As veterinarians, we know that each piece of a patient’s miraculous puzzle plays a role in his vibrant, active, happy, and hopefully long life. Heart health is one of the most critically important pieces of this puzzle, and the best way to promote it is to gain a better understanding of how diet plays a role in its function.

Nutrition and heart health


As a specialized muscle, the heart requires excellent and bioavailable amino acids in the diet to build proteins and keep the constantly beating muscle cells healthy. This means the patient’s food must contain appropriate levels of essential amino acids – ten for a dog, and 11 for a cat.

We know that carnivorous pets need excellent proteins and balanced amino acids from meat sources to maintain their natural health. It makes sense that a carnivore’s heart health is adapted to what nature provides: excellent quality meat. The legume proteins used in grain-free diets are not as complete as meat proteins for carnivores. They lack certain amino acids like taurine, which is essential to the heart and its function. Although taurine is not considered an essential amino acid for dogs as it is for cats, improving deficiencies helps support heart function.

Weight gain and cardiac disease are more likely associated with a high carbohydrate diet rather than one high in fat. Feeding an ancestrally appropriate diet (e.g. low carbohydrate, and meat protein with moderate fat) can help animals maintain a heart-healthy weight.


The heart’s quality of function is affected both by the clarity of nerve signaling throughout the muscle tissue and the vascular tone as it pumps blood. Vascular elasticity then affects the efficiency of the muscular contractions. These components can be supported with herbs historically known to support normal cardiac contractility, nerve signal transmission, and vascular elasticity.

Hawthorn berry, for example, has been effectively used to support cardiac function on several fronts. It has free radical scavengers, bioflavonoids, and other helpful components such as proanthocyanidin. Components in this herb may influence the strength of the heart’s contractions, widen the blood vessels (vasorelaxant), and increase the transmission of nerve signals throughout the heart.

Other herbs that are slightly diuretic, like dandelion, may also be supportive for the heart because they gently decrease the volume of blood passing through the heart pump.

Vitamins and minerals

Antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds from fresh unprocessed foods can help the heart heal from damage.

  • Vitamin E has been shown to maintain heart health and support normal healing after an injury.
  • Other supplements like coenzyme Q10 (a cofactor in the generation of adenosine triphosphate for energy) can enhance the efficiency of muscle and valve function; CoQ10 thus helps optimize the energetic state of the heart.7
  • Magnesium is important for cardiovascular hemodynamics and electrophysiologic functioning. Animals with chronic gastrointestinal issues, diarrhea, kidney disease, or who eat processed pet foods can develop electrolyte deficiencies, especially in magnesium. These deficiencies can compromise heart function. Safely supplementing important electrolytes such as magnesium can help maintain healthy cardiac function over time.

NOW® Pets Cardiovascular Support – an all-in-one solution

NOW® Pets Cardiovascular Support is the product I recommend for patients who would benefit from cardiovascular support. Designed to support normal circulation and overall heart health in both dogs and cats, it is a unique pet supplement made with high-quality, functional ingredients such as carnitine, taurine, antioxidants, and botanicals to overall support a healthy cardiovascular system. NOW® Pets formulates its premium pet supplements with the same attention to quality and detail put into supplements intended for humans.

The comprehensive NOW® Pets Cardiovascular Support formula contains:

  • Pharmaceutical grade CoQ10 , a safe antioxidant that has been studied extensively for possible use in managing coronary heart disease.
  • A non-GMO Vitamin E (d-alpha Tocopheryl), which preserves cardiac function by reducing oxidative stress.
  • L-Carnitine, an amino acid that supports heart health in breeds that are prone to cardiac stress
  • Taurine, an amino acid that in recent studies have shown that a taurine deficiency is one cause of a heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)  in cats and now for dogs.
  • Low Magnesium levels has been linked with cardiovascular risk factors.
  • Hawthorn an herb, has had multiple clinical trials and found to improve blood circulation to the ventricles of the heart specifically. Also studies have found hawthorn to be effective for early stage congestive heart failure.
  • Organic Dandelion Root, rich in potassium and naturally contains Vitamin A, C, K, D and B-complex

If we focus on the dietary factors necessary for heart health, we can protect and enrich the quality of our patients’ lives.


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