Recently the FDA has warned veterinarians that there may be a correlation with Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and specific ingredients in pet food. Dilated cardiomyopathy is a disease of the muscles of the heart. In DCM the muscles weaken, causing the heart to enlarge and not function correctly. Signs of DCM include lethargy, coughing, difficulty breathing, and episodes of collapse. Certain breeds such as Cockers, Boxers, Newfoundland, and others are affected due to genetic factors. However, the FDA has noted DCM in breeds not typically affected.
The common factor in the dogs reported to the FDA – diet. The dogs were being fed grain free diets with legumes (peas, lentils, etc.) or potatoes as the main ingredients. Some dogs tested had taurine deficiencies, others did not. Early reports indicate that the dogs ate these foods as their primary diet for periods ranging from months to years. The dogs improved when their diet was switched to a balanced diet. Most of the dogs also needed medication. At this point the FDA is working with veterinary cardiologists, nutritionists, and manufacturers to determine the underlying cause.
The grain free craze in pet food was started as a marketing plan by certain dog food companies. There is no scientific evidence that grains cause problems in most dogs. For the 10% of dogs who have a true food allergy, 95% of those allergies are to a protein source, not a carbohydrate. If you feel that your dog has a food allergy, please talk to one of our veterinarians so we can develop a plan to address your concerns. At this point, grain free diets are not worth your dog’s heart.
Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.