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Nutrition can be an important adjunct to medical treatment in animals with cardiac disease. The discovery of taurine deficiency as a reversible cause of feline dilated cardiomyopathy (Pion and others 1987) increased awareness of the importance of dietary management in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.
Fish oils and other seafoods contain a special class of polyunsaturated fatty acids called omega-3 fatty acids. These are classed as ‘essential’ fatty acids, together with omega-6 fatty acids, because they are needed for health, cannot be synthesised by mammals and must be obtained from the diet.
Numerous cardiovascular benefits have been attributed to an increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids. The omega-3 essential fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) have been reported to exert antihypertensive effects and possibly reduce mortality from coronary heart disease in humans (Bønaa and others 1990). Diets rich in oily fish, or fish oil supplements, can reduce the number of myocardial infarctions in humans (Burr and others 1989, GISSI-Prevenzione Investigators 1999). In addition, moderate fish oil consumption reduces the risk of cardiac dysrhythmias and death in patients with heart failure (GISSI-HF Investigators 2008). The American Heart Association has endorsed the use of omega-3 essential fatty acids either in the form of fatty fish or fish oil supplements in patients with coronary heart disease.
Fish oil also has been shown to directly reduce concentrations of tumour necrosis factor (TNF) in both humans and animals (Freeman 2010). Dogs with congestive heart failure (CHF) have been shown to have reduced levels of EPA and DHA compared to normal dogs. In one study of dogs with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and CHF, fish oil supplementation normalised plasma fatty acid concentrations, reduced cytokine production and improved muscle mass (Freeman and others 1998). In some dogs, fish oil supplementation also improved appetite. A …
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