Nutrition for Cats and Dogs with Heart Disease Finding the Right Diet for Your Pet with Heart Disease

Nutrition for Cats and Dogs with Heart Disease
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vet verified Dr. Joseph J. Wakshlag, DVM Associate Professor of Clinical Nutrition

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine Ithaca, NY


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Cats and Dogs with heart diseases are going to need dietary adjustments in conjunction with their medication. Here is what you need to know about giving your pet the proper food for their condition.

If your cat or dog has been diagnosed with heart disease, some portion of the treatment plan will probably rely on adjustments to your pet’s diet.

\While dietary changes are not necessarily the sole treatment for heart problems in pets, they can help as part of an overall plan to improve your pet quality of life. 

Vegetarian- or Meat-Based Diet?

Some of the older research on diets for pets with heart disease indicated that proteins should be restricted, but the most current recommendation based on new research is for pets to have a high protein, meat-based diet.

Keeping pets away from a vegetarian diet, and including meat as part of their regular meals is important, since a meat-based diet will contain the amino acids that are essential to your cat or dog’s heart health. It will also help your pet maintain a lean body mass, which is important because obesity can become a major problem later for pets with heart disease. Additionally, higher protein diets tend to be more palatable. As dogs with heart disease become more finicky eaters, the higher protein diets will entice them and keep them fed.


As with humans with heart conditions, a diet with reduced amounts of sodium is generally necessary. The greater the severity of your pet’s heart disease, the less sodium your cat or dog should be ingesting.

If your pet requires a diet with a severe salt restriction, your vet may need to provide a special prescription diet. If you are watching your pet’s sodium intake levels, be aware that snacks from your own table -- such as deli meats, hot dogs, cheese, and even rawhides -- can be quite high in sodium and should not be given to your pet. Pet treats can also be high in sodium so check the label before handing them to your cat or dog. 

Helpful Supplements

It’s best to discuss any supplements that you provide your pet with your vet first, but some supplements that are commonly found helpful for cats and dogs with heart disease are: 

  • B vitamins
  • Omega-3 fatty acids -- generally given in the form of fish oil
  • Taurine and carnitine – These two substances are present in protein sources and can help promote heart health in some cases.
  • Magnesium

Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Of course it’s important for all pets to maintain a healthy weight, with a combination of exercise and diet, but for pets with heart disease it can be particularly important. Note that weight loss and weight gain can be a symptom of heart disease. In some cases, a special weight-healthy diet may be required to help your pet stave off the signs associated with heart disease.

More on Pet Health

Maintaining Your Cat's Healthy Weight
Try the Tool: Is Your Dog a Healthy Weight?
The Benefits of Vitamins and Supplements

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian. It has however been reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Joe, a board certified veterinary nutritionist and graduate of Cornell University's program for Veterinary Medicine.

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