by Jackie Brenda, Dog Guru and Owner, Smelly Dog

Heart disease in dogs can be difficult to notice. It is important to keep up on yearly vet visits to catch any problems, like heart murmurs, early on. There are a few things every dog owner can do to prevent heart disease and there are also signs to look for that are common in dogs with heart disease.

There is a strong link between teeth/gum health and heart health. Daily maintenance of your dog’s dental care will help keep his heart running strong. Most vets recommend dog owners brush their dog’s teeth daily. If that is something you are unwilling or unable to do, there are supplements you can add to your dog’s diet or water to keep their breath fresh and teeth clean. My favorite diet additive is Proden Plaque Off, an alga based powder.

Certain ingredients can also help to strengthen your dog’s heart. Start with a healthy diet high in protein, ideally between 24 – 34 percent, that also contains the amino acids L-Carnitine and Taurine, B-vitamins, and Omega Fatty Acids. If your dog food does not contain all of these, you can add supplements that contain these ingredients. Try Herbsmith Nutrients Superfood for Superdogs. There are also many herbs that can help heal and protect your dog’s heart, like Hawthorne berry flower and leaf, Motherwort, Cactus Grandifloras, Cayenne Pepper, Ginger and Red Clover. A trusted herbal treatment is Animal Apawthecary (now Animal Essentials) Hawthorne Plus.

A yearly liver and kidney/bladder detox is great for every dog, but especially beneficial for dogs with heart problems. By cleaning out these elimination organs, it allows the other organs in the body to work better. I like Healthline Liver Detox, which is a powder that you add to your dog’s food once a day for 27 days. For a kidney/bladder boost, try Healthline D-Mannose Kidney/Bladder Treatment.

Once your dog is over the age of seven human years, he is considered geriatric. This is the time to really pay attention to changes in your dog. As your dog ages, he will naturally slow down. But there are other signs to look for that can be indications that your dog’s heart is at risk.

An elevated respiratory rate while resting, difficulty breathing, or rapid breathing, a cough, rapid tiring during normal play or a walk, weakness, poor appetite or weight-loss, a pot-belly or significant swelling in the abdomen, and fainting are all signs of heart disease or failure in your dog. If you notice any of these signs, your dog needs to see a vet. Even if it’s not a heart condition, none of these symptoms are normal for dogs and can help to diagnose a serious problem.

Follow these easy tips on and look for the signs, and both you and your dog will have a heart-happy February.