Preventing Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

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.

What Is Congestive Heart Failure?

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)
  • Pork
  • Beef
  • Chicken

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
  • Fainting
  • 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.


© 2018 HeartMD Institute & Ageless Paws. All rights reserved.

Leave a Reply


  1. David

    on July 12, 2018 at 6:17 pm

    In the grocery store, you can buy sardines packed in water. Can these be eaten out of the can without cooking by humans or by dogs, or do they need to be cooked first?

  2. David

    on July 12, 2018 at 6:23 pm

    I know there are different sources of CoQ10, i.e., ubiquinol (?) & ubiquinone (?). Which is most effective for males with Coronary Artery Disease & A Fib?

  3. HeartMD Editor

    on July 13, 2018 at 9:37 am

    Yes, they are ready to eat from the can, no cooking necessary.

  4. Kathleen Quinlan

    on October 31, 2018 at 8:55 am

    My Pom has MVD heart disease and some enlargement of her heart. She is on Vetmedin and blood pressure. I use Ubquinol. She weighs 14 lbs. I give her 1/2 capsule of 100 mg of Ubquinol daily. Is that good? Also I heard Albumin(egg) is good also?

  5. HeartMD Editor

    on October 31, 2018 at 12:45 pm

    Hi Kathleen, Dr. Sinatra loves CoQ10 for dogs! For small dogs, he suggests a third of a capsule to start, then you should be able to go up to a half, but still may need to adjust per the clinical response.

  6. Samantha Chadwick

    on December 31, 2018 at 5:10 pm

    This is VERY helpful for not only myself but my 4-legged baby. My cousin recently lost his beautiful 4yr old Pittie to heart failure. Extremely heartbreaking! I googled prevention and found this article and I’m glad I did. I check everything before I give it to my dog because I want to keep her as healthy as possible so she lives a long, happy life. Thank you for sharing this information. My question is , at what age should I start using CoQ10? My girl is 4 1/2 yrs old.

  7. Ricardo

    on January 19, 2019 at 9:26 pm

    Just found out last Sunday that our dog had stage 5 congested heart failure , never showing any signs until sunday with heavy breathing. They put him on 2 medicines to help , went to regular vet on Tuesday and she thought he wasn’t that bad and that the medicines would help. On Friday I had to take him back to vet because of his breathing , they put him in an oxygen chamber and after a few hours we took him home. Really didn’t get any better and as a family it was difficult to see him struggling so bad to breathe , so we decided we would take him back to vet on Saturday morning when they open up at 8 and have him put down. Did not want to end his life but it was heart breaking to see him like that and he barely moved anymore. Thankfully he decided to leave his own way at home. Why did we not have any sign of this before 1 week of his death. So hard to deal with , and did we miss a sign.

  8. Linda A Olbort

    on August 12, 2019 at 10:13 am

    For humans over 50 they recommend the ubiquinol form of CoQ10 for better absorption. Is this the same thing for senior dogs?

  9. Affie Adagio

    on April 4, 2020 at 7:54 pm

    Thankyou for this info about CoQ10 which I will give my 6mth old chi from now on. My previous baby chi Pepi 10 died last year of CHF and I was devastated so I got another chi Peanut and I wanted to take preventive measures because as a naturopath I was sure CoQ10 was promising and reading your info gives me hope…Dr Affie Adagio

  10. Pamela

    on April 15, 2020 at 2:09 pm

    My 14 year old poodle had basically no signs of heart failure listed above. He was raised on all of the fresh meats listed above and then some. He had a heart murmur never diagnosed. It started months prior with an infrequent dry gagging cough that was short and maybe twice per day, but it didn’t seem like much. I thought he had an acidic stomach which was burning his esophagus, so gave him Pepcid. His activity level was high, as well as his appetite, and was as normal as I remember. Two days prior to being euthanized he didn’t look his normal self – head hung low and skittish. I used a stethoscope when I felt his heart beat and his heart thumped fast, even at rest. I knew then something wasn’t right. It was like he then knew that I knew it was more serious then I ever would’ve imagined, considering he was naturally reared. The next day he then lost his appetite, but still played and was otherwise normal. This morning while in his bed his breaths were short and I rushed him to the vet whom told me he was in the final stages of heart failure. I’m telling all of you now that this comes on fast. Dogs – my dog Rumi was so incredibly stoic and I was so incredibly stupid to what was wrong. Heart disease is something they push through w/ little worry from the owner as my result. Then it happens – fast. I never imagined this is how it would end – it hit me like a brick. One moment your fetching with him and the next morning he awoke in distress, off to the vet and it was too late with euthanasia being the humane option..

  11. Jennifer

    on April 16, 2020 at 8:21 am

    Ricardo, we just experienced a similar tragedy in our family days ago. Our furbaby had no signs till Saturday night when he fell or collapsed. We rushed him to the ER that night and a chest x Ray showed an enlarged lobe of the heart and he had a fever (which we now know is a sign). The ER doctor recommended a heart medication and a follow up visit to his regular vet. We took him to his regular vet on Monday and he great, like his usual self. But by Monday evening he had heavy labored breathing. A new X-ray showed a severely enlarged heart, and lungs filled almost to capacity with fluid. Plus kidney problems. It was said that Lasix would only tax the kidneys resulting in a painful death so tragically we had to end his life for him. We’ve cried and felt guilty ever since. Did we miss a symptom or sign? So he is in Heaven now with his sister Katie.

  12. Sandi bergeron

    on April 20, 2020 at 1:26 pm

    Hi Affie, This is what Dr. Sinatra had to say:
    It is always sad when we lose our pets. I started our last three dogs on CoQ10, but not until they were 1- 1 ½ years of age. Each of them outlived the average lifespan for their breed, and none had heart failure or any cardiac issue that we knew of. (they were from the “Spitz” line—a Norwegian elkhound and 2 Chows) So, I would advise waiting another year before you start Q10 with Peanut.

  13. Sandi bergeron

    on April 20, 2020 at 1:39 pm

    Thanks for reaching out, this is what Dr. Sinatra had to say.
    Linda, based on my own research—as well as clinical experience—ubiquinol is no more effective or bioavailable than a high quality ubiquinone. Ubiquinone is absorbed equally as well. It is, however, less expensive. My own senior dogs were given ubiquinone. Each of them outlived the average lifespan for their breed, and none had heart failure or any cardiac issue that we knew of. (they were from the “Spitz” line—a Norwegian elkhound and 2 Chows)

  14. Sandi bergeron

    on April 20, 2020 at 1:43 pm

    Hi Jennifer,
    This is what Dr. Sinatra had too say.
    I resonate with all of you. It is so tough making decisions on behalf of our pets, that we often “second guess” ourselves. If only they could talk! And how is it that our pets can sometimes “trick us”? They can confuse us with a “burst of energy” just when we thought all was lost? I even ask myself if I have made the best decisions for my dogs.
    We find comfort in the concept of Rainbow Bridge, after someone shared it with us after losing our Elkhound named Charlie, after my dad… so I share it with you:

  15. Sandi bergeron

    on April 20, 2020 at 1:49 pm

    Dear Pamela,
    This is what Dr. Sinatra had to say.
    Poodles are one of the most intelligent dogs—or so I have read. And their average life expectancy is 12 to 15 years. Sounds like Rumi “lived life large” and with such vitality. And our pets can become ill so suddenly and unexpectedly, just like us… I hope you find some comfort that Rumi was so vital until his last day.
    We find comfort in the concept of the Rainbow Bridge, after someone shared it with us after losing our Elkhound named Charlie (after my dad)… so I, in turn, share it with you:

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