Information About Grain Free Dog Foods and Their Connection to Heart Disease
Last year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published information about grain free foods and their potential to cause a heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs. While the relationship between diet and DCM remains unclear, we wish to inform you of the available studies and discuss whether it may be recommended to transition your dog to a new diet, especially if you are currently feeding the specific brands or ingredients identified in the FDA’s study.
WHAT IS DCM?
Dilated cardiomyopathy is a disease in which enlargement of the heart occurs secondary to abnormal stretching of the muscle. As these changes occur, it becomes difficult for the heart to pump blood efficiently and eventually heart failure (fluid build-up in the lungs) can occur. These complications require intensive medical management and can lead to early death. Breeds commonly affected by a genetic form of DCM include Dobermans, Boxers, and Great Danes. In this study, other breeds not commonly diagnosed with DCM, particularly retrievers, developed heart disease while on a grain free diet.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I SHOULD CHANGE MY DOG’S DIET?
The FDA has published a list of brands that were most commonly associated with heart disease, as well as ingredients that were recurrently contained in foods linked to heart disease. While more information is needed to determine the true level of concern, it is suggested to avoid grain free foods, as well as those with main (top ten) ingredients include peas, lentils and potatoes/sweet potatoes. Please refer to the graph below for brands implicated in the study by the FDA. If your dog was started on a grain free food due to allergies, there are alternatives available. If you have questions regarding what to feed your pet, a veterinary nutritionist can assist you in choosing the best food for your dog.
CAN I TEST MY DOG FOR HEART DISEASE?
Signs of heart disease include exercise intolerance, cough, heavy or rapid breathing and even collapse. There are blood tests available to check for heart changes and taurine levels. Additionally, x-rays and ultrasound of the heart are helpful for diagnosing a problem. Please schedule an appointment if you suspect any heart symptoms in your dog.
WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?
- Questions and answers regarding diet and dilated cardiomyopathy: https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/outbreaks-and-advisories/fda-investigation-potential-link-between-certain-diets-and-canine-dilated-cardiomyopathy
- Diet-Associated Dilated Cardiomyopathy: https://vetnutrition.tufts.edu/2019/07/dcmupdate/