Q: My 9 year old Jack Russell Terrier who is very active has been coughing after resting and occasionally throwing up yellow. My Vet believes he is starting to have congestive heart failure. Beau is currently eating Halo Spot's Stew and it is recommended for dogs in his condition to have low sodium diets. Is Spot's Stew low enough sodium for his condition?
A: There are many important points I would like to make about congestive heart failure (CHF) as well as the proper dietary management of heart failure.
• The early signs of CHF can be easily confused with lung conditions. Coughing can signify things other than CHF and x-rays must be taken to determine if a dog has lung disease (like allergic or chronic bronchitis) or is indeed having problems with heart failure before starting any medications.
• Severe sodium (salt) restriction is not recommended-except in very advanced cases of CHF.
• It is more important to keep salt intake consistent and stable so the body can adapt to a particular salt load. High-salt foods, which cause sudden spikes in sodium, should be avoided. See below for a list of foods to avoid.
• For dogs with evidence of heart disease (like a murmur) but no evidence of CHF, normal salt or only mildly salt restricted diets are recommended. When CHF becomes mild or moderate, a little more salt restriction is recommended. Halo dry dog foods are acceptable for both of these stages of heart disease. Only when CHF becomes severe should a dog be placed on a therapeutic (veterinary-prescribed) salt restricted diet.
• The following foods and treats should be avoided in all dogs with heart disease and CHF: baby food, pickled foods, bread, pizza, condiments (like ketchup, soy sauce), lunch meat/cold cuts, cheese, processed foods (like rice mixes, macaroni and cheese, etc), canned vegetables (with added salt), potato chips and other snack foods, soups (with added salt) and most commercially available pet treats.
• It is critical to get your dog with heart disease or CHF to lose weight if they are overweight or obese. Even a little excess weight adversely affects heart function by increasing heart rate and blood pressure which may accelerate heart failure progression.
• Fatty acid supplements that contain fish oil have been proven to decrease inflammation and some of the abnormal hormonal signals that occur during advancing CHF. In general it can help your pet feel stronger with an improved appetite. Try Halo's Dream Coat which supplies 5 other beneficial oils in addition to fish oil.
• If pets with CHF are on diuretics (aka "water pills") they are likely to have additional vitamin B requirements. The diuretics cause them to lose excess B vitamins in their urine which can have a direct negative effect on muscle strength and immune function. Try a vitamin B supplement such as Halo Vita-Mineral Mix to insure adequate levels.
• There are additional supplements that may benefit your pet. You should ask your veterinarian for advice on their usage. These include taurine, carnitine, coenzyme Q10, and antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin E.
Good Luck with Beau! Keep us posted on his condition.