Your cat’s heart health may not be an issue of concern for you today, but eventually, it will be. In fact, you may not even be aware that your feline is dealing with health issues. That’s because detecting early signs of heart disease is quite difficult. Many forms of heart diseases can impact your cat, the most chronic one being congestive heart failure (CHF). In this cat food guide, you will find all the necessary information about congestive heart failure, including the best cat food products to help your cat weather this problem. Cat food for congestive heart disease can help, but it is not the only factor to keep in mind.
Understanding Common Heart Problems In Cats
In cats, heart problems can be divided into two separate categories: Congenital and Adult-Onset.
Congenital heart diseases refer to heart defects detected after the cat is born. It is rather tricky to diagnose heart defects early on as it seldom shows any adverse symptoms. Usually, congenital cardiovascular diseases go undetected for years.
On the other hand, adult-onset heart disease occurs after some damage is caused to the heart. Or else, it may be linked to some other hereditary condition that affects the heart. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the most common type of heart disease diagnosed in cats. It is characterized by the thickening or enlargement of the heart muscle.
There are many other common heart conditions in cats, some of which include:
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
- Dilated cardiomyopathy
- Restrictive cardiomyopathy
- Intermediate cardiomyopathy
- Congestive heart failure (CHF)
What is Congestive Heart Failure?
Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a condition in which the heart stops delivering enough blood to the body. It can be due to the failure of either the left or right side of the heart or both the sides.
CHF is serious, life-threatening condition that needs immediate medical intervention.[PS1] [DSA2] The earlier it is diagnosed, the better will be the feline’s chances of survival. So, why does it happen?
The main culprit is sodium. Humans and animals that suffer from severe heart disease lose the ability to excrete sodium (Na or Salt) from their bodies. This alters kidneys’ functioning and the central nervous system- the two main systems that retain sodium and water.
This leads to an abrupt increment in blood volume. It happens because the body’s system attempts to distend the heart to start functioning normally. The system works to improve the heart’s functionality, but it is useful for short-term issues like dehydration or blood loss. In the long run, it causes serious problems for the feline. The veins get distended excessively, eventually creating immense pressure. When the pressure reaches its highest point, fluids are forced to pass through the smallest blood vessels’ walls and enter the surrounding tissues. This causes congestive heart failure.
Hyperthyroidism is one of possible causes for CHF. Find about food for cats with hyperthyroidism.
Congestive Heart Failure in Cats Symptoms and Diagnosis
Congestive heart failure symptoms include:
- Rapid breathing or difficulty while breathing
- Gray or blue-colored gums and tongue
- Lethargy and weakness
- Loss of mobility in feline’s hindquarters (hind leg) that may lead to paralysis
- Loss of appetite
- Clotting of blood known as thromboembolisms
- Unexpected changes in cat’s weight
- Depression and isolation
- Swelling of abdomen
Congestive heart failure diagnosis is based on the above mentioned symptoms. Additionally, the veterinarian will perform some necessary tests to confirm the disease. The vet may perform an ECG or ultrasound and run some blood tests. CHF can happen in cats at any age, but it is most commonly diagnosed in the middle-aged and older cats.
What is the Best Cat Food for Heart Disease?
The only way to avoid CHF is to treat other underlying conditions that cause congestive heart failure. If your cat is diagnosed with CHF, you can improve the animal’s chances of living a long life and relieve the symptoms through certain dietary changes. The most important thing you can do to help your cat feed her heart-healthy, low sodium cat food.
What is Low Sodium Cat Food?
If your cat suffers from any heart disease, the vet will most certainly recommend feeding it a low-sodium diet. The reason being that sodium restriction helps in reducing the fluid build-up and makes it easier for the heart to function effectively.
According to AAFCO 2014, the minimum amount of sodium that felines with heart diseases should consume is at least 0.2% or 50g/100kcal. This amount is based on their dry matter. Any amount of sodium lower than this will cause hyponatremia.
Putting your cat on a low-sodium diet will help regulate the prevailing electrolyte imbalance in your cat’s body. Many different cat food brands offer a low-sodium range of food, some of which we will review in this guide. However, before trying new low sodium diets, it is better to consult your vet and get a prescription for food that they suggest for your feline.
How to Identify Sodium Content in Cat Food?
Sodium, which is an alkali metal element, plays a key role in cats health. On cat food labels, it is mentioned in a cation (Na+) form. It is among the most essential elements for optimal health of your cat, as it regulates blood pressure, and maintains a balance between osmolarity and balancing effect of fluid volumes in the body. However, if consumed in higher proportion, sodium can cause a variety of health issues, including heart failure. Hence, you should check the cat food label and based on the recommended sodium content, analyze which food would be suitable for your cat.
Issue is that it is not always included on the guaranteed analysis on the products, making it hard to assess how much salt content is there.
That’s why it is recommended that pet owners should choose low-sodium foods as recommended above in the toplist or by their vet. According to the Association of American Feed Control officials, a minimum of 0.2% sodium in cat food is ideal in maintaining a healthy sodium intake.
Benefits of Feeding Heart Healthy Cat Food?
Cats generally suffer from two types of heart issues. One affects the heart valve, and the other impacts the heart muscle. Either type of heart disease can be successfully managed through nutrition, medication, and exercise. Through a heart-healthy diet, your cat can enjoy a long, active, and healthy life.
Though treatments or dietary changes cannot reverse heart disease, these can help your cat live a normal life. In this regard, the food it consumes plays a key role in improving their overall health condition.
Heart diseases result in the enlargement of the heart. This enlargement causes the feline to become less efficient and energetic. The heart starts holding back more fluid than it normally should, and the real problem begins. This could be prevented if you feed your feline a low-sodium and heart-healthy diet. Heart-healthy food reduces the unnecessary fluid build-up in the heart and makes it easier for the heart to function normally and effectively.
How to Select Best Cat Food For Congestive Heart Failure?
The first rule you should follow is consulting your veterinarian to suggest the ideal diet for your feline. When you need to select food for a cat with congestive heart failure, you must make sure that it contains health beneficial ingredients. Presented below is an overview of the best cat food ingredients for congestive heart failure.
It is probably the most crucial and important component of a cat’s diet, especially for cats with CHF. Ensure that your cat consumes enough protein because muscle mass loss could be an issue of concern for you later. You must feed it a protein-rich diet. To increase palatability, you can opt for something with considerably higher fat content.
CHF is generally linked with an increase in inflammatory chemicals. These contribute to muscle breakdown, and the only way to prevent this from happening is by feeding the cat omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids can decrease the proportion of inflammatory chemical production in the body. Since cats cannot convert smaller chains of omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil supplements are your ideal pick for your cat.
In the earlier stages of CHF, the vet wouldn’t place any restrictions on the amount of sodium you can feed your cat. However, it is better to lower the amount of sodium in your cat’s diet in its later stages. Salt-free cat foods can be a good option for you, but remember that too limited sodium can be shocking for the cat’s body and may affect its health. Therefore, always consult your vet to determine the right amount of sodium in the food.
In a cat’s diet, the role of b-vitamins and antioxidants for those having CHF is yet unclear. It is a fact that free radicals contribute greatly to heart deterioration, which is why a diet rich in antioxidants may help your cat. Your vet may prescribe a higher amount of vitamin C and E, but do be careful when feeding the feline food rich in vitamin C if the cat has a history of urinary stones or crystals.
Cats that are diagnosed with CHF often develop a b-vitamin deficiency, particularly cats on diuretics. That’s why the vet will suggest vitamin-b supplementation through diet to make up for this loss.
What About Low-Sodium Cat Treats?
Besides feeding your feline the proper low-sodium diet, it will help if you supply them with low-sodium cat treats or supplements. Low-sodium cat treats can improve the cat’s kidney and renal health and improve the kidneys and heart’s functioning.
Best Cat Food for Heart Disease FAQ
The best heart-healthy cat food must contain high-quality animal protein, which should be its first ingredients. It should have 30% crude protein for kittens and around 26% for adult cats, and at least 9% crude fat for both adults and kittens. Moreover, the best cat food for heart disease must have a balanced amount of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, which should come from animal sources. The carbohydrate content should be limited and derived from digestible sources such as veggies or whole grains. Lastly, the food shouldn’t contain low-quality filters, artificial dyes/additives/preservatives, and by-products.
Most cats with CHF have an average life expectancy of between 6 and 18 months.
Congestive heart failure (CHF) develops when the heart becomes incapable of distributing blood throughout the body. In its early stages, the body adjusts to maintain blood and oxygen supply to other organs and tissues. In the later stages, the body’s systems get exhausted as they work overtime, which causes fluid retention in the body, particularly the lungs.
Lately, researchers have been focusing on identifying the potential link between heart diseases and grain-free commercial pet foods. Cats require higher levels of proteins in their diet, which should come from animal sources. The biological value of commercially prepared foods high in plant protein is lower than those offering animal protein sources. But there is no concrete evidence that a grain-free diet can cause heart issues in cats. The FDA is performing more in-depth research to determine their link.
The primary reason for feeding a low-sodium cat food is to reduce fluids retention in the body or decrease high blood pressure levels.
Final Thoughts on Heart Disease Cat Food
Heart disease in cats is a serious issue. Therefore, at the earliest signs of symptoms, you should take your cat to the vet. The vet will diagnose the specific form of cardiomyopathy or another heart problem and suggest appropriate diet and treatment. Do take the cat to the vet before the underlying heart problem converts into congestive heart failure. In this regard, diet can play a fundamental role in maintaining your cat’s health. Give your cat a heart-healthy diet and if you aren’t sure where to start from, try some of the foods we have reviewed for you.