By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
I’ve been crazy about dogs ever since I was a kid. As a result, dogs have always been a big part of my personal life and my professional life. In fact, over the 40-plus years I’ve studied, researched, and practiced cardiology, I’ve owned many dogs and tried to use my clinical experience with human patients to also help my beloved pets avoid heart disease—which for dogs often culminates in the serious condition known as congestive heart failure.
3 Dogs & 1 Powerful Heart-Health Nutrient
In particular, several years ago when I was involved in extensive research on the heart-health benefits of coenzyme Q10 (also known as CoQ10), I had 3 wonderful dogs: 2 Chow Chows named Chewie and Kuma, along with an Elkhound named Charlie. It was an enlightening time for me because I was learning so much about CoQ10—the nutrient I now consider to be the most powerful for preventing and treating human heart disease, including congestive heart failure. The more I found out about CoQ10’s unique ability to directly support energy production in the heart cells, the more excited I got for my patients—and my pets.
Without getting too technical, CoQ10 is an essential nutrient that resides in our cells’ mitochondria—which are basically the little energy factories inside our cells. Specifically, CoQ10 has the ability to spark the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), creating cellular energy. So, in a nutshell, CoQ10 boosts energy throughout the entire body.
Energy—and CoQ10’s ability to boost energy—is really important to cardiac health because the heart needs an incredible amount of energy to be able to work around-the-clock without resting. On the flipside, anything that decreases the amount of CoQ10 in the body will impair the heart and drain energy levels. As we age, our levels of CoQ10 naturally decline. Certain medications also deplete the body of CoQ10, all leading to a loss of energy.
CoQ10 Helped My Patients, So Why Not My Pets?
Since more energy is the biggest benefit of CoQ10, I saw profound improvements in the whole range of cardiac patients I had taking CoQ10—with perhaps the most miraculous results in those patients with serious heart conditions, such as congestive heart failure. This makes total sense since congestive heart failure is most often caused by tired, weak muscles in the heart. Restoring energy to the heart with CoQ10, therefore, makes a critical difference.
With my patients experiencing so many great CoQ10 benefits, I thought maybe my dogs could reap some of the same energy benefits. Even though Chewie, Kuma, and Charlie were not ailing at the time, I realized that dogs also die of heart failure and I wanted to take a preventive approach. So, I simply started by adding some CoQ10-rich foods to my dogs’ diet.
Supplementing Suppertime with CoQ10 Foods
It can be hard to get a substantial amount of CoQ10 in the diet, since there aren’t a ton of foods that are high in CoQ10. On top of that, those foods that are highest in CoQ10 are not exactly popular with most people, especially vegetarians. The best CoQ10 food sources include:
- Organ meats (hearts, livers, kidneys)
- Oily fish (sardines, herring, mackerel, and salmon)
Although lots of folks probably wouldn’t get excited about such a menu, most dogs are bound to start drooling at the mere mention of some of the treats listed above. Even Chewie, Kuma, and Charlie, who were all notoriously picky eaters, absolutely loved sardines and salmon.
It was easy to add these fish to their meals since both sardines and salmon can be given to dogs straight out of the can. If I had fresh salmon, I always cooked it first…raw fish from the counter or fridges can contain harmful parasites that can make dogs sick (raw salmon that has been freeze dried under strict safety standards as a treat or food topper, though, is a different story – I’d give that to my dogs in a heartbeat!). Salmon and sardines are also great sources of quality protein and omega-3 fats that enhance a dog’s bones, heart, mood, skin, and coat.
I was also able to find a liquid form of CoQ10, which made supplementing my dogs’ diets even easier. As I mentioned before, all three of my dogs were very finicky eaters. So, I went to great lengths to cook them healthy and enticing meals, then I would just mix a dropper-full (about 20 drops) of CoQ10 into each of their bowls.
My Dogs’ Hearts Never Failed
As it turns out, Chewie, Kuma, and Charlie all exceeded the life expectancy of their respective breeds, living 14 to 16 years—all of them eventually succumbing to old age and natural causes. None of them ever had any heart problems. I definitely think that CoQ10 was a great preventive measure.
It is true that, while there has been considerable research to back the use of CoQ10 in human patients with heart failure, [REFERENCE #2] as well as to help prevent heart disease in the first place [REFERENCE #3], there is a lack of specific research for CoQ10 use with dogs. Regardless, there are holistic vets and even mainstream veterinary manuals that recognize and endorse CoQ10 use for dogs with many different heart ailments, including congestive heart failure [REFERENCE #4 & #5].
Since the CoQ10-rich foods I mention above also contain numerous other health-enhancing nutrients for dogs, adding them to your dog’s diet is sure to offer all sorts of health benefits and, therefore, certainly worthwhile. If your dog can’t or won’t eat such foods, it might be a good idea to talk to your vet about supplementing with a liquid form of CoQ10.
Signs of Heart Failure in Dogs
Of course, another part of preventing heart failure is recognizing the early signs and symptoms of heart problems in your pet. In dogs, congestive heart failure is literally the heart’s inability to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs, and it can affect just one side of the heart, or both.
In the initial stage of heart failure, dogs often exhibit no symptoms. And while there are different ways heart disease, and ultimately heart failure, can progress, here are some of the signs that might indicate your dog is having heart problems and should be seen by a vet as soon as possible:
- Fatigue and shortness of breath during activity/exercise
- Coughing upon exertion, after exertion, or within a few hours of bedtime
- Restlessness or the inability to settle down and sleep peacefully
- A swollen belly from accumulating fluids
- Weight loss
- Pale or grayish gums due to lack of oxygen [REFERENCE: #6]
If your dog is showing signs of congestive heart failure, I’d suggest supplementing with liquid CoQ10 immediately – based on my experience with human heart failure patients, doing so could mean more precious time spent with your beloved pet.
- Sinatra ST. The Sinatra Solution: Metabolic Cardiology. Laguna Beach: Basic Health Publications, Inc., 2005, 2008, 2011.
- Sharma A, et al. “Coenzyme Q10 and Heart Failure: A State-of-the-Art Review.” Circulation: Heart Failure. 2016;9:e002639.
- Langsjoen, PH and Langsjoen AM. “Overview of the use of CoQ10 in cardiovascular disease.” Biofactors. 1999;9(2-4):273-84.
- Puotinen, CJ. “Understanding Congestive Heart Failure: Holistic veterinarians say congestive heart failure is sometimes reversible in dogs.” Whole Dog Journal. Accessed online April 30, 2018.
- Kittleson, MD. “Heart Failure.” Merck Veterinary Manual. Accessed online April 30, 2018.
- WebMD. “Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs.” Accessed online May 1, 2018.
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