Two conditions of the heart have names that bear slight similarity: congenital heart disease and congestive heart failure. The former describes a defect in the structure of the heart that is present at birth. The latter---congestive heart failure---is the condition for which a veterinarian might recommend the use of vitamin B6 as a diuretic.
Congestive heart failure---or CHF---affects all dog breeds, irrespective of age. It is caused by an abnormal functioning of the heart, which prevents blood supply to body tissues. This results in fluid retention. Several factors, including birth defects, advanced age and heart disease, can predispose a dog to developing CHF. Treatments for CHF include the use of vitamin B6 as a diuretic---an element that helps the body rid itself of excess fluid through urination.
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The aim of CHF medication is to improve heart function and prevent cardiac arrest. Practically, the same drugs that are prescribed for human heart disease are used to treat canine CHF. ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors reduce lung congestion and ease the dog's heart pressure, but combining it with vitamin B6 supplements brings down elevated homocysteine levels, which are considered an independent risk factor for heart disease.
Diuretics work by reducing the absorption of salt and preventing fluid congestion that causes painful swelling in dogs with CHF. While drug-based diuretics like furosemide and spironolactone are prescribed, vitamin B6 supplements may also be used to reduce fluid retention for dogs with CHF.
Other Vitamin B6 Advantages
Additional vitamin B6 benefits were demonstrated in a study conducted by Yale University School of Medicine. Dogs with vitamin B6 deficiencies experienced cardiac dysfunction, anaemia, thoracic fluid retention, liver congestion and degenerative disorders. Dogs that received vitamin B6 supplements did not develop any such health conditions. Vitamin B6 also works as an antioxidant, detoxifying the body and preventing free radicals from further damaging the heart.
Dogs with CHF are deficient in the amino acids taurine and carnitine, which strengthen heart muscle tissues. Both these amino acids are abundant in red meat, especially raw beef and fish. However, dogs with CHF must have vitamin B6 supplements for proper absorption of taurine and carnitine from these foods. A diet low in salt/sodium is recommended to prevent fluid retention. If a diuretic is used, the diet should be high in potassium.
Consult your veterinarian prior to giving vitamin B6 supplements or dietary treatments to a dog with congestive heart failure. The physical health of dogs on CHF treatments must be monitored on a regular basis.
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