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By Dr. Hank Cerny

Diet

As the old saying goes, you are what you eat. Your dog relies on you to provide proper nutrition and help them maintain an ideal body weight. Obesity is the enemy of a healthy heart, so talk with your veterinarian if your pet needs to lose weight.

Choosing a diet can be overwhelming, as there are numerous choices all claiming to be the best. I look for quality ingredients and reputation. What is the first ingredient, the second, the third? Does the diet contain antioxidants? Does my dog like the taste? Your veterinarian can give you diet recommendations and help you select the best one for your dog.

Exercise

Regular exercise is important to maintain a healthy body and mind. Walking, running, hiking and swimming are all options. Talk with your veterinarian to help tailor an exercise program that is safe and healthy for your pet.

Veterinary checkups

Remember: Your dog relies on you for proper care and you should have medical checkups done annually or more often if a health condition exists. But why so important you ask? Three out of every four dogs have some form of dental disease (tooth and gum) by the time they reach middle age, generally between 5 and 9 years old. Dr. Larry Glickman at Purdue University has shown a strong link between gum disease and heart disease in dogs.

Having regular professional dental cleanings at your veterinarian’s office as well as brushing your dog’s teeth daily may prevent or delay the onset of heart valve damage. If your dog has a heart condition, early diagnosis offers the best possible outcome. Medications are available to reduce the workload on the heart and improve the quality of your dog’s life.

Supplements

There are several supplements on the market that have heart healthy benefits. Two of my favorites are Omega 3 fatty acids, such as Nordic naturals Omega-3 Pet, and Coenzyme Q10. There are two forms of Coenzyme Q10. The ubiquinol form offers better absorption than ubiquinone. Numerous scientific studies support the use of these supplements for heart health. Talk with your veterinarian before starting any supplement.

Dr. Hank Cerny, DVM, MS, is a veterinarian at Yankee Hill Veterinary Hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska.

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