Is Your Dogs Food Breaking Her Heart An Inside Look At Grain
In July 2018, the Food and Drug Administration announced it was investigating reports of dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs eating certain pet foods. Many of these reports included small or medium-size breeds not typically known to develop DCM. If your pet is eating a BEG diet , you may want to reconsider your food choice to avoid its potential link to heart disease.
Dcm And Heart Disease
Dilated Cardiomyopathy in canines is a disease that causes a dogs heart to dilate, resulting in an enlarged heart. This makes it more difficult for the heart to pump, which can lead to heart valves leaking and a buildup of fluids in the abdomen and chest. A buildup of fluids can ultimately lead to congestive heart failure and death.
The FDA is still investigating the connection between DCM and grain-free pet food, but the agency thought that the connection was significant enough to bring to the publics awareness as many dog breeds, who are unusual candidates for DCM, are being affected.
What Is Dialated Cardiomyopathy
In dogs suffering from dilated cardiomyopathy, the heart muscle weakens, which makes it harder for the heart to pump blood throughout the body. This increased stress on the heart can enlarge it, which can ultimately lead to congestive heart failure.
Dilated cardiomyopathy is usually found in dogs that have a genetic predisposition to DCM or other types of cardiac disease. Larger breeds such as Doberman Pinschers, Great Danes, Irish Wolfhounds, Newfoundlands, and Saint Bernards are the most commonly afflicted, but Cocker Spaniels can also suffer from DCM. Normally, DCM isnt that common in medium-sized and smaller dogs . Then, enter the grain-free diet and dog breeds that were typically not prone to DCM are being diagnosed with it. The cause, as determined by the FDA, was dietary and not genetic.
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What Is A Beg Diet
A BEG diet has three components:
- Boutique diets, which are manufactured by small companies that often do not conduct food trials or invest in a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, and may instead opt to fund flashy marketing campaigns to appeal to pet owners
- Exotic diets, which are formulated with exotic meats, like kangaroo or squid
- Grain-free diets, which have exploded in popularity due to extensive marketing and which play on the low-carb diet fads in human nutrition these diets include potatoes, peas, lentils, and other legumes instead of the commonly used corn and rice
These three pet-food types are popular with pet owners due to marketing that plays on the shift in human diets toward healthier, low-carb options. However, animals do not digest food like people and have different nutritional requirements. Your pets diet should be based on her specific needs and follow the World Small Animal Veterinary Associations nutrition guidelines.
The Role Of Taurine In Canine Dcm
The investigators also looked into low taurine as a possible cause for the recent cases. So far, these results have been inconclusive. Just under half of the tested dogs in the report were taurine-deficient, while the remaining half had normal taurine levels.
Other studies, however, suggest that taurine may play a bigger role in DCM, especially for certain dog breeds. One study found that 24 Golden Retrievers with DCM had low taurine, and most of the dogs were fed grain-free diets prior to diagnosis.
Fortunately, the heart disease resolved for nearly all of the dogs after they received cardiac medications and taurine supplements and switched to a grain-inclusive diet.
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What Is Dilated Cardiomyopathy In Dogs
Dilated cardiomyopathy is a type of heart disease in dogs. Its also known as an enlarged heart.
With DCM, both the upper and lower chambers of the heart become enlarged. The muscles become weak and the heart cant pump blood as well as it needs to. When this happens, fluid builds up in the lungs and the hearts gets overloaded. This leads to congestive heart failure.
Early signs of dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs can be hard to spot.
You can keep an eye out for:
- less interest in exercise
These ingredients are most commonly found in grain-free foods.
The dogs in the reports ate grain-free foodsas their primary source of nutrition for months to years.
At this point, the FDA is investigating the link. They havent said how these foods are linked to DCM. They also havent listed any specific brands.
We spoke with veterinary nutrition expert Marion Smart DVM PhD about the investigation. Dr Smarts take: its more complicated than some might think. And more research is definitely needed.
As you can see, its not a simple study, and its not a simple answer. Researchers have to look at a lot of variables to get a concrete answer.
What Is Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy
DCM is a genetic condition diagnosed in large- and giant-breed dogs, such as Dobermans, Great Danes, Irish wolfhounds, and boxers, that causes heart muscle weakening and enlargement and can lead to congestive heart failure and death. The first sign of DCM is often a heart murmur or arrhythmia your family veterinarian hears during a routine physical exam. As the disease progresses, your dog may display the following signs:
- Exercise intolerance
- Increased breathing rate and effort
- Abdominal enlargement due to fluid accumulation
Regular check-ups are crucial to allow your veterinarian to catch this disease in the early stages and to promptly treat your dogs heart condition. If your pet has been eating a boutique, exotic, or grain-free diet, schedule an appointment for an evaluation of her heart function.
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Link Doesnt Mean Cause
First of all, it is important to understand that a link or correlation does not equate to a direct cause. Furthermore, many factors typically contribute to heart disease, and recent research suggests that diet is a factor in only about 30% of dogs with DCM. Some dogs with DCM but not all will improve with taurine supplementation. This demonstrates that multiple influences are involved with the DCM disease process, and that the exact role and impact of dietary taurine appears complex and is not yet fully understood.
It is important to understand that a link or correlation does not equate to a direct cause.
Fda Finds A Link Between Grain
In 2018, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration released a statement regarding a heart condition called canine dilated cardiomyopathy . In an investigation looking at more than 500 cases of DCM, the common denominator was that these dogs were fed grain-free pet foods.
The problem, based on todays current knowledge, is that grain-free pet foods rely on lentils, peas, and potatoes to replace grain. They lack a key ingredient that cats and dogs require, taurine. Taurine is an amino acid used in the production of protein. To date, researchers are uncertain as to why exactly there is a link between these factors and DCM.
In addition to diet, they found that genetics and breed are also factors in which pets develop heart disease.
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Veterinarians Warn Dog Owners About Diet That Could Cause Heart Issues
CINCINNATI – Veterinarians at Kings Veterinary Hospital are warning dog owners that grain-free diets could be causing heart problems for dogs.
Veterinarian Beatriz Woodall said she and her colleagues went to a scientific conference after noticing an increase in heart issues in dogs.
What they learned at the conference Woodall said could be the ingredients in some dog foods causing problems.
Weve seen a trend and issues with the grain-free, boutique ingredients and exotic ingredients, explained Woodall. Lentils, things that in the old days we didnt put in dog food.
Woodall said scientific studies have shown grain-free diets can lead to dilated cardiomyopathy, which is a thinning of the heart wall that can lead to heart failure.
If the problem is caught early enough, the vet said the problem can be resolved.
When they switch this diet to a more scientifically proven, tested, and with field trials, the symptoms and the issues have resolved, Woodall said.
If it is not caught early on, Woodall said it could result in death.
Woodall does not want to target a specific brand as being bad or good. Her advice is to speak with your vet before switching the dog food.
Check with your vet before you listen to a salesperson at a pet store on what you switch your dog food for, she explained.
Woodall did say cats can also be sensitive to a grain-free diet.
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Do I Need To Change My Dogs Diet
As grain-free dog kibble is still under investigation, its up to the dog owner to decide if the risk is too much. Even if grain-free dog kibble is cleared by the FDA, it often lacks important nutrients to keep your dog healthy, strong, and energetic. Grain-free dog kibble is often deficient in high-quality, human-grade meat and vegetables, which provide your dog with the best nutrition.
Our Pet Plate meals are not only palatable to dogs , but they are well-balanced by our veterinary nutritionist and portioned specifically to your dogs size and needs to prevent overfeeding and to promote a healthy weight.
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Side Effects Of Grain
- Vegetables such as potatoes and sweet potatoes, green peas and tapioca often used in the grain-free diet to replace the grains, especially in kibble foods.
- It makes them rich in carbohydrates than grain-based dog diet.
- There is nothing essential nutrients in grain-free food.
- It can lead your dogs to a severe health issue like cardiomyopathy and even heart failure.
Does The Research Point To Grain
Unlike the genetic form of DCM, the recent DCM cases have affected a wide range of dog ages and breeds, from puppies to older dogs. The most commonly reported breeds with DCM have included the Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever and mixed breeds.
When the FDA reviewed dietary factors, they found that over 90 percent of dogs with DCM were being fed diets listed either as grain-free or zero grain.
Instead of grains, these diets contained peas and/or lentils as their main ingredients. A lower proportion of the diets also listed potatoes or sweet potatoes as a top ingredient.
The researchers examined many other components in the diets, such as protein source, minerals, carbohydrates and starches, but none of these other components trended with disease development.
It is also worth noting that according to the FDA, the diets of dogs in reported cases had high concentrations/ratios of certain ingredients such as peas, chickpeas, lentils, and/or various types of potatoes, which is typical of grain-free diets, but diets that contained grains were also represented among these cases.
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What The Fda Found
First, the FDA noticed an increase in cases of DCM in dogs that didnt fit the classic profile. They werent just finding DCM in Dobermans and Boxers the new cases were in younger dogs, and in breeds and mixes that dont typically get DCM.
They also noticed that a large number of these atypical cases were eating grain-free, boutique diets.
The FDA announced this to alert dog owners to a potential risk in feeding these diets.
Ever since then, researchers have been working to verify that the diets were indeed to blame
and to figure out what exactly about these diets is causing DCM in dogs.
What Heart Problems Are Linked To Grain
As grain-free dog food became more popular in the United States of America, vets there noticed something strange. They were seeing an increasing number of young, otherwise healthy dogs suffering from Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy . The disease is not new, but previously it was seen almost only in breeds known to be prone to it, such as Boxers, Doberman Pinschers, Cocker Spaniels and Great Danes. Why were other dogs getting it now?
First, lets take a quick look at what DCM is. The heart has four chambers: two smaller upper chambers and two larger lower chambers. The upper chambers are the atriums. The lower chambers are the ventricles. Each ventricle has its own job. First, blood enters the right ventricle where it is passed along at a low pressure to the lungs. The freshly oxygenated blood travels to the left atrium and then to the left ventricle, which pumps it out via the aorta to circulate throughout the body.
DCM is a condition where the hearts ability to pump blood is compromised. The heart muscles are weakened, and the ventricles are dilated as the ventricle walls become thinner. It can affect just one ventricle or all four chambers of the heart. Blood can pool in the lungs, causing coughing, panting and even abdominal swelling. The disease can also result in weakness and lethargy due to a lack of oxygen in the blood. Weight loss can be a symptom.
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Alternative Diets Have Long Been A Suspected Cause Of Dcm This Study Looks At Other Potential Causes And How To Communicate This Information To Clients
University of California, Davis, veterinarians led a team that has found a link between some popular grain-free, legume-rich dog diets and a type of nutritional deficiency and canine heart disease known as taurine-deficient dilated cardiomyopathy. The study was recently published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Researchers found dogs eating some of these boutique diets are not making or maintaining enough taurine, an amino acid important for heart health. Taurine deficiency has been known for many years to lead to dilated cardiomyopathy, or DCM, a heart muscle disorder that can lead to congestive heart failure and death.
I was surprised by how similar the diets being fed to the affected dogs were, says lead author Joshua Stern, a veterinary cardiologist and geneticist at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. I was shocked to see so many cases with this condition in such a short period of time.
Stern says the research was prompted by the surge in cases at UC Davis. This is a condition that was previously rarely seen in our busy clinic, he says. What we would really like to do is spread awareness of this issue. We have seen a great number of affected animals. Given that this is a reversible form of this devastating disease, we really want to ensure that veterinarians can recognize the risk and treat it expediently when needed.
Dog Heart Disease Linked To Grain
Dogs fed “grain free” food based on peas, lentils or potatoes are developing an unusual condition that can cause an enlarged heart, the Food and Drug Administration warned Thursday.
The condition, called canine dilated cardiomyopathy, is more common in certain breeds, but its turning up in breeds that are not usually susceptible, the FDA said.
It might be down to a nutritional deficiency, the FDA said.
The agency is not naming brands, but said the ingredients seemed to be more important than the brands. The affected dogs appear to have been fed certain types of pet foods.
We are concerned about reports of canine heart disease, known as dilated cardiomyopathy, in dogs that ate certain pet foods containing peas, lentils other legumes or potatoes as their main ingredients, said the FDAs Dr. Martine Hartogensis.
The FDA is investigating the potential link between DCM and these foods. We encourage pet owners and veterinarians to report DCM cases in dogs who are not predisposed to the disease, Hartogensis said in a statement.
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What To Avoid In A Grain
When choosing a grain-free dog food, keep it simple. Always check the ingredients on the label and do not buy the food if the main ingredients include the following:
- Meat and Bone Meal – Meat and bone meal is a product of the rendering industry. It is made from the portions of animals that are unfit for human consumption. Meat and bone meal is of lower quality than real meat. It is also highly processed, which makes it difficult to digest.
- Starches – Starches like potatoes, green peas, sweet potatoes, and beet pulp are cheap filler ingredients in many grain-free dog foods. These food ingredients are biologically inappropriate, increase calories, and can contribute to obesity and other health issues.
- Soy Products – Soy products are commonly used in low-quality grain-free dog foods as an inexpensive form of protein. They are biologically inappropriate, highly processed, and often genetically modified. This means that they are difficult to digest and can lead to health problems in dogs.
- Carrageenan – Carrageenan is a thickening agent that’s used to improve food texture. It has no nutritional value and has been associated with gastrointestinal inflammation in dogs.
- Artificial Preservatives – Artificial preservatives are used by many pet food manufacturers to extend the shelf life of their products. Grain-free dog foods that contain these chemicals should be avoided, as they have been linked with toxicity in pets.
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