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Grain Free Diets and dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs

There is a ton of talk about pet food right now. This ranges from what is the best food for your dog or cat to which ingredients should be on the label. But perhaps the biggest concern is the FDA announcement that certain foods are being investigated for potentially causing heart conditions in dogs.

This announcement was made in July of 2018. It announced an investigation into the grain free diets and the development of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs. The concern is the amount of potatoes or multiple legumes such as peas, lentils, or other seeds of legumes. It is believed that these grain-free diets may not provide enough taurine. There are ongoing research and investigations into the cause of the cases of DCM that are being reported in breeds that are not prone to the disease. We will be sure to keep you up to date on the investigation.

Canine DCM is a disease of a dog’s heart muscle and results in an enlarged heart. As the heart and its chambers become dilated, it becomes harder for the heart to pump, and heart valves may leak, leading to a buildup of fluids in the chest and abdomen. DCM often results in congestive heart failure. Heart function may improve in cases that are not linked to genetics with appropriate veterinary treatment and dietary modification if caught early.

The underlying cause of DCM is not truly known but is thought to have a genetic component. Breeds that are typically more frequently affected by DCM include large and giant breed dogs, such as Great Danes, Boxers, Newfoundlands, Irish Wolfhounds, Saint Bernards and Doberman Pinschers. It is less common in small and medium breed dogs, except American and English Cocker Spaniels. However, the cases that have been reported to the FDA have included Golden and Labrador Retrievers, Whippets, a Shih Tzu, a Bulldog and Miniature Schnauzers, as well as mixed breeds.

These grain-free diets are great for dogs with documented food allergies but there are other solutions available for these dogs. In many cases, switching to a hypoallergenic diet can be a solution to prevent the development of dietary DCM. These hypoallergenic diets can either be limited ingredients or hydrolyzed to prevent the dog’s digestive tract from recognizing the allergen.

If you ever have any concerns about your pet’s diet or health, please contact us. We are happy to be part of your pet's health care team!

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