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Importance of Heart Health in Pets: Causes, Precautions, and Cardio Support in Pets

Importance of Heart Health in Pets: Causes, Precautions, and Cardio Support in Pets

An Ounce of Prevention Now to Support Your Pet’s Healthy Heart for a Lifetime.

Heart conditions have become a top concern among veterinarians. The #2 cause of death among dogs, and the #1 cause of sudden death in cats.

Hidden cardiovascular concerns can be present at birth or develop slowly as part of the normal ageing process. But the good news is, you can take steps right now to help support your pet’s heart health.

A surprise to many pet parents, heart issues in cats and dogs are almost as common as they are for humans. And this has veterinarians concerned as well.

Dogs as young as five years of age can be affected, and concerns increase dramatically with age. Up to 75% of senior dogs have some type of heart condition.

It’s estimated that up to 15% of cats in the U.S. have some type of heart condition. With cats, they can be born with heart issues or they can develop over time.

Meaning… it can be hereditary or acquired.

And researchers finding the cause of the rise in heart issues have identified two major contributors: a pet’s diet and being overweight.

So, what can you do to help your pet stay healthy?

A Close-up View of Your Pet’s Heart

To understand the importance of heart health in pets and know how to keep it healthy, it’s necessary we know how a healthy pet’s heart works.

Cats’ and dogs’ hearts are divided into four functional parts, which include the:

  • Heart muscle, which pumps blood throughout the body.
  • Heart valves, which direct blood flow in the proper direction.
  • Pericardium, the tough membrane that envelops and protects the heart.
  • Heart conducting system, which directs electrical impulses that keep the heart beating in a coordinated manner.

Be it either inherited or acquired, a variety of cats’ and dogs’ heart conditions are reasons why any or all of these components are affected.

That said, here are some common heart concerns that can affect cats and dogs:

  • Enlargement or thickening of the heart (this is the most common heart condition seen in cats).
  • Weakening of the heart muscle.
  • Build up of scar tissue on the inner lining and muscle of the heart.
  • Congenital malformation or acquired deterioration of the valves (heart murmur), which allows the blood to leak backwards and increase the load on the heart.
  • Circulatory or blood flow issues (a common condition in dogs).

Many of the changes develop slowly, over months and years with few outward signs of declining heart function.

While some heart concerns may be preventable, some aren’t. But, by supporting your pet’s heart health and lifestyle factors, you may be able to help slow the progression of changes and their long-term effects.

Which Pets Are Most at Risk for Heart Conditions?

Certain breeds are more susceptible than others to heart conditions at an earlier age, but any dog or cat can develop changes that naturally occur with age.

With congenital dog’s or cat’s heart conditions, the reasons are usually genetics. Inherited cardiac issues affect both small and large dog breeds. Seven canine breeds more likely to be impacted by genetic conditions include:

  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
  • Dachshunds
  • Miniature and Toy Poodles
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Boxers
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Miniature Schnauzers

A full 50% of Cavaliers have detectable heart issues by age 5. Dobermans, especially males, should be screened twice yearly starting at age 4 for heart conditions. For precautions against heart disease in dogs, all of the breeds in the above list should be monitored closely for changes starting at an early age.

Also, several breeds of cats are genetically predisposed to heart conditions too.

  • Maine Coon
  • American Shorthair
  • British Shorthair
  • Persians
  • Siamese

As you can see, some very popular cat breeds are included in this group. That may be why cats more than dogs tend to exhibit signs of heart conditions during their lifetimes.

The Hidden Heart Crisis in Cats

Because kitties are such masters at concealing health issues, a heart concern often remains hidden until it becomes a crisis. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. In the wild, any type of weakness makes an animal stand out to its predators.

On the outside, your cat may appear healthy. If a heart issue is brewing, you’re unlikely to know until he or she begins to show more advanced signs. All you may notice at first is a decreased appetite, or your cat sleeping or hiding more. Issues often arise around middle age.

So, what can you do to support your kitty’s heart health and function?

Most importantly, feed your cat a human-grade, meat-based diet, without grains and unnecessary carbohydrates.

While there are a multitude of reasons to feed meat and avoid carbs, one of the most important reasons lies in an essential amino acid that is crucial for heart health…

Taurine. Critical not only for heart health, it also supports brain health, eye function, digestive health and nerve growth.

And while most mammals are able to make their own taurine from other amino acids, a cat’s ability to do this is limited, so your cats require large amounts of it in their diet. Fresh food diets rich in organ and muscle meats contain abundant, naturally occurring taurine.

Also, taurine is routinely added to commercial cat food, but it’s not always in sufficient quantity to meet their needs. Cats can easily become taurine deficient if they don’t get enough in their diets.

There are some types of cat food that while they meet AAFCO nutritional requirements, are nonetheless low in taurine. These include dry kibble and semi-moist pouched food.

Moreover, Dr Karen Becker, a wellness and integrative veterinarian, strongly recommends avoiding feeding your cats these types of foods. She also recommends providing extra taurine if your cat may be at risk for heart concerns.

What You Need to Know about the Link Between Diet and Heart Health?

Researchers have made an interesting discovery in recent years – the cardiovascular system of dogs is very similar to the human cardiovascular system.

One area in which they are strikingly similar is the significant role diet plays in heart health.

For humans, processed junk food with excessive carbohydrates is a known factor for heart concern risk.

For dogs and cats, it’s not much different...

Biologically inappropriate, highly processed pet food with too many unnecessary carbs is the equivalent of junk food for your pets – and it may also raise their risk for heart issues.

The sad truth is that far too many dogs and cats are eating a junk food diet their entire lives.

Most dry pet food, or kibble, is a blend of poor-quality meats, byproducts, and feed-grade vitamins and minerals. In addition, most kibble contains high-glycemic, genetically engineered (GE) corn, wheat, rice, or potato.

The pet food industry wants you to believe that carbohydrates are not only good for your pet, but also that they’re an “essential nutrient.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Grains and carbohydrates have no place in a carnivore’s diet – they weren’t designed to digest them, and they can cause unhealthy spikes in your pet’s insulin, glucagon and cortisol throughout the day.

Plus, if your pets are getting a significant amount of calories from carbs rather than from meat, it further lowers their intake of taurine.

Why Commercial Grain-Free Pet Food Isn’t a Better Option?

Because carnivores like your dogs or cats have no dietary needs for grains and their digestive systems can’t even handle them properly. That said, it would make sense to feed them a grain-free diet, right?

Well, here’s what we’ve learned about commercial grain-free diets.

Twenty years ago, this option emerged as an alternative to the corn, rice and wheat, that are widely used in pet foods.

Initially, some veterinarians thought the switch to grain-free might be a good thing. However, within a few years, they started noticing some troubling changes in their patients’ health.

Many pet owners don’t realise it, but grain-free processed food isn’t carbohydrate- or starch-free. In fact, grain-free pet foods are heavy in starch and some contain even more carbs than regular pet food.

Not only are veterinarians seeing weight gain and rising insulin levels in their patients consuming alternative grain-free diets, but they are also seeing a rise in cardiac issues.

Whether they’re connected hasn’t been established.

However, there is the potential that some of the ingredients in grain-free kibble may be creating dietary deficiencies – specifically taurine and carnitine, two amino acids found primarily in muscle tissue.

Some researchers think the high carbs in grain-free pet food may deplete taurine levels, or possibly make the nutrient less bioavailable or useable.

Plus, the high-heat extrusion process used to make kibble creates byproducts that can cause a chemical reaction between the amino acids and carbs in the food. This may degrade the taurine and alter your pet’s microbiome, or gut bacteria.

Two More Reasons Why Beans, Peas, and Lentils Don’t Belong in Your Pet’s Food Bowl

Up until 20 years ago, pet food included primarily rice, wheat, or corn. With the advent of grain-free food, manufacturers started replacing grains with peas, lentils, tapioca, garbanzos (chickpeas), other beans, and white potatoes.

In essence, pet food became even more biologically inappropriate.

Not only are legumes and similar starches very high in carbohydrates but they’re also added to pet food in place of meat to boost protein levels. However, peas, beans, lentils, and white potatoes are not acceptable substitutes for meat.

They are missing the amino acids your pets need for their cardiovascular health, putting their hearts at risk.

That’s not the only problem... Grain-free foods contain anti-nutrients, such as lectins and phytates, that can interfere with the absorption of taurine and other important nutrients.

Another ingredient that shouldn’t be in your pet’s food is beet pulp. This unnecessary filler binds with bile acids in the small intestine, increasing their excretion. Because bile acids recycle needed taurine, beet pulp can lower your pet’s total body taurine levels.

In summary, there are three aspects of these inappropriate foods that can put your pet’s heart health at risk:

  1. The high levels of starchy carbohydrates.
  2. The low levels of high-quality protein.
  3. The extreme high-heat processing methods used to create kibble and other commercial pet foods.

The best food you can provide your pet is a fresh, nutritionally balanced, grain-free, species-appropriate diet. Fresh, living foods have an abundance of enzymes, fragile fatty acids, phytonutrients and amino acids that are lost with any type of processing.

Because taurine is so important for cats’ and dogs’ overall health, Dr Karen Becker recommends supplementing all pets with high-taurine foods or extra taurine, no matter what type of food you feed your pet.

The Key Role of Antioxidants – Like Sending in the Reinforcements to Help Support Your Pet’s Heart

The good news is that, in spite of rising trends, there are things you can do to support your pets’ optimal heart health as they age.

One of the biggest factors affecting your pet’s cellular health at every level is oxidative stress caused by excess free radicals. Free radicals can cause damage to heart cells and tissues.

Here’s how it happens...

Unstable free radicals with uneven numbers of electrons travel around your pet's body seeking stable molecules to bond with. When a free radical finds a stable molecule, it is able to take that extra electron and stabilise itself.

However, in the process, it creates a new unstable molecule. As this process is repeated over and over, free radicals multiply, resulting in oxidative stress.

Antioxidants have a neutralising effect on free radicals, so they help protect your pet’s heart and other organs from the oxidative stress that can lead to damage.

Feeding your pet antioxidants is like sending reinforcements into the battle against free radical damage.

Studies show that using a combination of antioxidant compounds with complementary effects is more effective at supporting heart health than using just a single antioxidant compound.

That awareness led Dr Karen Becker and her team to formulate Bark & Whiskers™ Heart Health for Cats & Dogs, a unique blend of ingredients to support cardiovascular health. It includes:

  • Antioxidants from multiple sources
  • Important amino acids, like taurine and carnitine
  • Other beneficial plant compounds

Let’s take a look at each of these ingredients...

12 Active Ingredients That Support Your Pet’s Heart Health – With Pet-Friendly Organic Cheddar Cheese

Bark & Whiskers™ Heart Health for Cats & Dogs contains human-grade antioxidants, amino acids, and other beneficial nutrients that many dogs and cats need for cardiovascular health.

  1. Rutin (from the flower bud of Sophora japonica, or Japanese Pagoda tree)
    A bioflavonoid, or plant pigment, with powerful antioxidant properties, yellow-coloured rutin supports blood vessel health and blood circulation.

  2. Taurine
    An amino acid found primarily in muscle meat, concentrations are highest in your pet’s heart, muscles, brain, and retina. The main source of taurine is your pet’s diet. Taurine supports cardiovascular, eye, and immune health.

  3. Glycine
    This amino acid acts as a precursor
    for key antioxidants such as glutathione and creatine. Also, it supports cardiovascular health and the overall well-being of animals and humans.

  4. Organic Hawthorn Berry Fruit
    Acting as an antioxidant bioflavonoid, hawthorn supports optimal circulation to the ventricles of the heart. Multiple studies show it promotes exercise tolerance and supports overall cardiovascular health in dogs and cats.

  5. D-Ribose
    A sugar molecule that’s part of your pet’s DNA and an important component of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), the cell’s primary energy source, D-ribose supports heart function and energy production in their heart muscles.

  6. Trimethylglycine (TMG)
    A plant compound also known as betaine, TMG may help cells adapt to stress and support their energy production. TMG also supports healthy blood flow and blood vessel health.

  7. L-Carnitine
    Comprised of the amino acids lysine and methionine, L-carnitine is produced in your pet’s liver and kidneys and stored in the heart, brain, and skeletal muscle tissues. It plays a key role in fat metabolism, allowing fat to be utilised for energy production for heart function.

  8. Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG) (from Decaffeinated Green Tea Leaf Extract)
    A polyphenolic component of green tea with the caffeine removed, EGCG offers powerful antioxidant benefits. It’s easily absorbed into all body tissues to support healthy cells.

  9. Pomegranate Fruit Extract
    This extract contains flavonoids, tannins and lignans, polyphenols with strong antioxidant and protective qualities to support your pet’s cell and gut health.

  10. d-Alpha Tocopherol (Vitamin E from non-GMO sunflower)
    The most active form of vitamin E, d-alpha tocopherol functions as a potent antioxidant that helps protect your pet’s heart cells and tissues against oxidative stress. Plus, it supports circulation and healthy red blood cell walls.

  11. Pine Bark Extract
    From the bark of Pinus radiata, this pine bark is rich in total phenols and naturally occurring chemicals called proanthocyanidins. The extract acts as a powerful antioxidant to support heart tissue and muscle health.

  12. Niacin
    Converted to the active form niacinamide by intestinal bacteria, niacin supports healthy blood levels of lipoproteins, such as LDL, and triglycerides.

All of these carefully selected ingredients work together to support your pet’s heart function and overall cardiovascular health.

And to ensure your cat or dog will look forward to this exceptional Heart Health formula, we’ve blended the nutrients into a delicious base of Certified Organic Cheddar Cheese powder.

Double the Impact – Ubiquinol and Bark & Whiskers™ Heart Health – The Perfect Combo for Ultimate Cardiovascular Support

Dr Karen Becker always recommends Ubiquinol, the reduced, active form of CoQ10, to support heart health in dogs and cats.

Ubiquinol is a powerhouse providing energy to the cells of every organ in the body, especially to the heart. It works as an antioxidant and provides powerful support for the cells’ mitochondria – the energy factories inside cells.

Our Ubiquinol for Cats & Dogs works synergistically with Heart Health but in its own unique way.

While Ubiquinol provides support for the energy-producing mitochondria in your pet’s heart, Heart Health provides support for the heart muscle. It supports the electrical and physiological aspects of the heart muscle structure.

And Dr Karen Becker specially recommends Heart Health to support optimal heart health in these groups of cats and dogs:

  • High-risk breeds (start when your pet is still a kitten or puppy)
  • Athletic and hard-working pets
  • All cats and dogs over the age of 7
  • Any cat or dog with a heart health concern
  • Any cat or dog eating kibble (and semi-moist pouched food)

Take an Important Step to Help Protect and Support Your Pet’s Heart Against the Effects of Ageing

The good news is you can provide your pets with targeted antioxidant support for their hearts with our Bark & Whiskers™ Heart Health.

An ounce of prevention now has the potential to reap significant benefits later, when your pet needs it the most.

Our unique blend of antioxidants, amino acids, and other beneficial plant compounds supports the health of your pets’ entire cardiovascular systems, whether they are puppies or seniors.

Order Heart Health for Cats & Dogs today, and for the ultimate in cardiac support, use it with Ubiquinol for Cats & Dogs. They’re designed to work together to provide your pet with support you can trust.

Give your pet Bark & Whiskers™ Heart Health, powerful heart health support so you can enjoy many happy years together.

Dr. Mercola Pet Products
Dec 2020
Dr. Mercola Pet Products

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