How You Can Support Your Dog’s Heart Naturally and Prolong His Life After Diagnosis

Dilated Cardiomyopathy Explained

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a primary disease of the heart muscle in which the heart muscle (myocardium) of the lower pumping chambers (ventricles) becomes weak and so loses its ability to contract normally.

It most commonly occurs secondary to genetic causes in breeds such as Dobermans, Great Danes, Golden Retrievers, Irish Wolfhounds, Boxers, Newfoundlands, Portuguese Water Dogs, Dalmatians and Cocker Spaniels.

It can also occur secondary to infectious disease, systemic disease, toxins and nutritional causes.

DCM has been documented to be associated with Taurine and L-Carnitine deficiency. Certain breeds have been shown to be predisposed to Taurine deficiency such as Goldens, Newfoundlands, English Setters, St. Bernards and Irish Wolfhounds. Boxers have been shown to be predisposed to L-carnitine deficiency.

Diet-associated DCM has been a hot topic for the past few years. The apparent link between grain-free diets and DCM has not yet been figured out by the FDA.


  1. Radiographs
  2. EKG-read by a cardiologist
  3. A biochemistry profiel (bloodwork)
  4. Blood pressure
  5. Test Taurine levels in plasma and in blood at UC Davis Amino Acid laboratory
  6. NT-proBNP Assay: N-terminal pro-B-type natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP) is a circulating peptide created and released by cardiomyocytes as a reaction to stretching. Elevated levels of NT-proBNP directly correlate with severity of cardiac disease. Measuring NT-proBNP may be combined with 24-Holter monitoring to detect early evidence of DCM, particularly in Doberman pinschers
  7. A Thyroid panel
  8. Find a cardiologist you can trust
  9. Echocardiogram
These results will allow you and your vet to treat your dog more thoroughly and effectively.


The most common signs are:

Tachypnea/dyspnea (Rapid breathing/difficulty breathing), cough, exercise intolerance, weakness, weak and/or irregular pulses, anorexia, heart murmur, weight loss, and syncope (passing out).

Fluid build up in the abdomen or lungs happens later as heart failure develops.


Dilated Cardiomyopathy often requires conventional heart medications. It is best to have a trusted canine cardiologist prescribe these medications based on the physical exam and echocardiogram, EKG and blood pressure findings.

Natural Treatments


  • A diet that contains high quality protein and is rich in taurine is optimal for your dog. Discontinue any processed kibble and treats. Raw meat is best as taurine can be reduced in a diet that is cooked or processed. Poultry, fish, brain, heart and liver are good sources of taurine.

  • Avoid high salt foods such as cold cuts, canned meats, chips, and highly processed treats.
Taurine supplementation
  • Studies have shown that supplementation with Taurine can improve cardiac function even when blood and plasma taurine levels are normal.
  • Dose: dogs less than 25kg: 500mg every 12 hours; dogs larger than 25kg: 1-2g every 12 hours.
L-Carnitine supplementation
  • L-Carnitine is essential for transporting long-chain fatty acids into the mitochondria and has been shown to be necessary for normal cardiac and skeletal muscle function.
  • Dose: 500 mg to a small dog, 1,000 mg to a medium dog and 2,000 mg to a large dog twice a day
CoEnzyme Q10
  • Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) helps protect heart muscle cells from injury through its antioxidant action. Supplementation may also improve energy availability for cardiac muscle contraction. In this study it was also found to decrease vascular resistance, therefore allowing blood flow from the heart to move forward more easily.
  • Dose: CoQ10 supplements come in two forms: Ubiquinone and Ubiquinol. Ubiquinol is a reduced form of CoQ10 and is absorbed more easily. vCoQ10 (Ubiquinol) 2-25pounds: 100mg daily, 25-50lbs 200mg daily, 50-75lbs 300mg daily, >75lbs 400mg daily.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
  • Omega-3 fatty acids have a number of potential benefits in dogs with heart disease such as reducing inflammation and helping to protect against abnormal heart rhythms.

  • Dose: is 40 mg/kg eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) + 25 mg/kg docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) per day. However doses have been proven to be safe up to 370 mg/kg combined dose daily. Be cautious in with dogs with a history of anemia.

  • Omega 3 products I recommend include 1. Four Leaf Rover Safe Sea and Mercola Krill oil. 2. Sardines – one sardine contains approximately 556mg omega 3s. I recommend these low sodium sardines. 3. Marine Phytoplankton is another great way to provide omega 3s. The daily dose is 1-10lb 1gm, 10-25lbs 1.5 gms, 25-50lbs 2gms, >50lbs 3gms 4. Green lipped mussel oil or powder contains even more benefits because it has 30 fatty acids, compared to just 2 in other marine oils.
Hawthorne Berry
  • Hawthorn contains many substances that may benefit the heart. These antioxidant flavonoids may help dilate blood vessels, improve blood flow, and protect blood vessels from damage. It helps the body push more blood around by increasing cardiac output and decreasing blood flow resistance in the arteries.
  • Dose: Give about 1 tsp of this powder per lb of your dog’s food per day.
  • Be aware that Hawthorne may potentiate (increase the effects of) digitalis and other positive inotropic drugs and cardiac glycosides, so be sure to ask your vet before using it.
Ayurvedic herb Terminalia Arjuna.
  • Arjuna is an amazing heart tonic and cardioprotective herb. It is potent in strengthening the cardiac muscles, improving the circulation of coronary artery blood flow and prevents the heart muscle from ischemic damage
  • Check out this study on the effectiveness of Arjuna on cardiomyopathy
  • Dose is 250mg per dog

What NOT To Do

  • Do Not use topical or oral pesticides/toxins. Use natural flea and tick prevention only. Check out my blog on this topic.
  • Do not vaccinate after this diagnosis.
  • Avoid heat and exertion. Long, easy walks on a cool day are fine but intense exercise can be dangerous for these dogs.

In A Nutshell

  • Know if your breed of dog is more susceptible to DCM. If so, take precautions and consider early testing and cardiac support supplements.
If your dog is diagnosed with DCM be sure to pursue all of the testing necessary to get a full picture of his condition
  • Don’t- use topical and oral pesticides/toxins, feed processed or high salt foods and Do Not vaccinate after this diagnosis.
  • Diet and the right natural supplements can make a positive impact on survival
  • Live each day with your beloved friend with presence and gratitude

Wishing all of you navigating heart disease with your dog many more magic moments with your cherished friend


  1. J Card Fail et al. The role of coenzyme Q10 in the pathophysiology and therapy of experimental congestive heart failure in the dog. 2000 Sep;6(3):233-42.