As we’ve already discussed on this blog, picking the right food for your pup can be difficult. There are so many different foods on the market and diets that are trending, but the most important thing is to choose a pet food that is safe for consumption.  Recently, the FDA issued a warning about grain-free pet food and its link to canine dilated cardiomyopathy. Since 2018, the FDA has investigated more than 500 reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) that appear to be linked to grain-free pet food. There is no clear answer as of yet as to what about the grain-free foods cause heart disease, but there is a link according to the FDA.  This article will explore what we know about grain-free foods and their link to canine dilated cardiomyopathy.

The FDA has seen an increase in the frequency of canine dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs eating foods containing a high proportion of peas, lentils, legume seeds, and potatoes in various forms as main ingredients. The greater frequency of reports may signal a potential increase in cases of DCM in dogs not typically genetically predisposed to it. The FDA hasn’t established exactly why certain diets may be associated with the development of DCM in some dogs and it doesn’t suggest that owners stop feeding grain-free dog food brands to their pets, but it does recommend that clients work with veterinarians to determine the appropriate diet for a dog’s specific needs.

The pet food brands most frequently linked to reports of DCM by the FDA are:

  • Acana
  • Zignature
  • Taste of the Wild
  • 4Health
  • Earthborn Holistic
  • Blue Buffalo
  • Nature’s Domain
  • Fromm
  • Merrick
  • Natural Balance
  • Orijen
  • California Natural
  • NutriSource
  • Nature’s Variety
  • Rachael Ray Nutrish

Many of these pet food brands have made statements regarding these accusations. Blue Buffalo made a public statement confirming that they are working with the FDA and the Pet Food Institute to study this issue and that Blue Buffalo scientists have come together with other pet food producers to further advance the general understanding of canine DCM and its causes. As of yet, there is no causative scientific link between DCM and grain-free pet products, ingredients, or diets as a whole.  The FDA is encouraging pet owners and veterinary professionals to report both symptomatic and asymptomatic cases of dogs suspected to have DCM connected to diet online on the FDA website.

Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy is a primary disease of cardiac muscle that results in a decreased ability of the heart to generate pressure to pump blood through the vascular system.  Researchers still debate whether the cause is mainly nutritional, infectious, or due to genetic predisposition. DCM is characterized by dilation of the ventricles with ventricular wall thinning. In many cases, dilation of all four chambers of the heart is seen. The ability of the heart to pump blood is diminished so dogs display signs of lethargy, weakness, weight loss, and they may even collapse. Dogs may also begin coughing and breathing rapidly on a regular basis.  DCM is typically diagnosed by echocardiography. Once diagnosed with DCM, the life expectancy for the average dog is between 1 and 3 years depending on their size.

If your pup is on a grain-free diet from one of these grain-free brands, consider talking with your vet about whether you should switch to a different brand or diet.

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