How nutrition can help with heart and kidney disease

 

Heart, Kidney and Liver problems

Decreased function of your dog’s organs (kidneys, heart or liver) can mean you have a really sick dog. While symptoms of organ failure in dogs vary according to the affected organ, your dog will probably require some sort of special management, either medical or dietary, for the rest of their life.

Dogs with kidney failure, liver failure or heart disease

The functions of the kidneys, heart and liver all affect each other. If the heart does not pump well, the kidneys and liver get less blood and do not work properly. Equally, kidney disease can lead to high blood pressure causing an extra workload and stress on the heart. Signs of organ failure in dogs vary depending on the affected organ, but it is important to understand that any type of organ failure can be life-threatening.

Kidney disease in dogs

The kidneys are the waste and water exit for the body. They adjust levels of salt and calcium and keep useful elements in the blood. They also eject protein waste, excess minerals and water into the urine. With so many jobs to do, it’s perhaps not surprising that kidneys can start to wear out as dogs get older. Acute kidney failure can occur if a dog ingests poison or has a bad reaction to certain medications. It can also occur if the kidneys don't receive adequate blood or oxygen. However, if your dog has kidney disease, they can usually live a long and happy life.

Symptoms of Kidney Failure

Symptoms include balance loss, vomiting, depression and appetite loss. These symptoms are quite obvious. Chronic kidney failure usually occurs in older dogs, with more subtle signs. These include increased drinking and urination, a chemical smell to the breath, appetite and weight loss, and blood in the urine.

What should I feed my dog with kidney failure?

Diseased kidneys cannot be repaired but the right food, one that produces a minimum of waste, can help slow down the weakening of the kidney function and it can also improve the symptoms.

Liver disease in dogs

Liver disease is common in dogs. It is especially prevalent in certain breeds such as West Highland Terriers and Doberman Pinschers. As the cleaning system for the body, the liver removes toxins and waste. It also produces bile for the digestive process. When the liver is compromised, toxins and waste may build up in the body. This may affect many of the other bodily systems such as the brain and heart. 

Symptoms of liver failure

Liver failure symptoms include appetite and weight loss, vomiting, diarrhoea and dehydration -- symptoms that occur with many illnesses - and jaundice, a yellowing of the eye whites and gums. Stomach ulceration often occurs in liver disease, so a dog might throw up blood and his faeces might turn dark. Fluid build-up in the abdomen can also be a symptom and some dogs experience seizures.

What should I feed my dog with liver disease?

Following a canine liver disease diet is an important treatment tool for dogs with problems with liver function. This can help the liver regenerate while also maintaining good dog nutrition. Providing good nutrition to maintain energy and health and promote liver regeneration and reduce stress on the organ. NB! There are different types of liver diseases and some may require another specialised food. Your vet will advise you on this.

Heart disease in dogs

The heart is a muscle that pumps blood around in the body to transport oxygen, nutrients and waste products. If your dog has a heart problem, blood is not pumped around effectively. Water/fluid builds up in organs such as the lungs, meaning that the dog may cough, become breathless and less active, lose appetite and weight and build up fluid which can enlarge the belly.

Symptoms of Heart Failure

If the left side of your dog's heart is failing, he'll generally experience coughing because of fluid build-up in the lungs. Low blood pressure will make him prone to fainting. If the right side is primarily affected, fluid build-up, or edema, will occur in his legs, chest and abdomen.

What should I feed my dog with heart disease?

Your dog’s diet is a very important part of the treatment of heart disease – and it’s the one where you can really make a difference. The right dog food may be able to slow the progression of heart disease, reduce the number of medications required and improve the quality of life for your dog.  Fatty acids present in fish oil (called omega-3 fatty acids) have been shown have a positive effect in dogs with heart disease.

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Dominic Ebery
SPECIFICTM Nutrition Team, Dechra

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