Friday, June 14, 2024

Is Grain Free Dog Food Linked To Heart Disease

Here Are The Responses Offered By Some Of The Brands:

Grain Free Dog Food Linked To Heart Disease?


Zignatures statement said that the FDA continues to believe that the potential association between diet and DCM in dogs is a complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors and that the actual cause has still yet to be determined.

Among all the cases from all brands that were reported to the FDA, the overwhelming majority of impacted dogs belonged to breeds genetically predisposed to DCM, a disease that was first discovered in the 1980s well before the grain-free diets were available for pets.

Zignature has created a customer care line in an effort to fully understand these cardiac issues.

This company was founded out of a passion and commitment to pet health and we care deeply about animals, it said.

We continue to invest in our own research to ensure we continue to make the safest and highest quality pet food on the market today.

Champion Petfoods

Champions Petfoods said it carries out exhaustive research internally and with independent labs on DCM. That research has included two long-term feeding trials on beagles and labs, studies on fiber, starch and amino acid, as well as digestibility and bioavailability studies of amino acids on different dies.

The feeding trials did not show any signs of DCM or precursors to DCM.

We are actively working internally and with other industry leaders to research and learn more about DCM, the company said.

Taste of the Wild



Natures Variety


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.

Symptoms Of Food Allergies In Dogs

  • Itching
  • Ear infections
  • Yeast infections on the skin or ears

If your Dog Suffers from Food Allergies, dont rush to the store and buy the grain-free dog food.

Instead, talk to your vet and get your dog allergy tested. This simple test can save a lot of trial and error when trying different dog food ingredients. Your vet may have a medication that can alleviate your dogs allergies altogether.

Also Check: Darwin\’s Pet Food Reviews

Study Looked At Golden Retrievers

Sterns research involved 24 golden retrievers with dilated cardiomyopathy and a documented taurine deficiency. Twenty-three of the 24 dogs diagnosed with DCM had also been fed diets that were either grain-free, legume-rich or a combination.

The study was a clinical study looking at affected dogs and their response to therapy, explains Stern. The published study included 24 golden retrievers, which represents the largest collection of taurine-deficient DCM cases in the literature.

Stern prescribed the dogs a diet change and added a taurine supplement to their diet. All but one dog showed improvement. Nine of 11 dogs in this group including Suva pictured above had the most advanced stage of the disease, congestive heart failure. These dogs also showed dramatic improvements or no longer had congestion, says Stern.

Is Diet To Blame For Dcm In Dogs

Grain Free Dog Food Linked To Heart Disease

Within the past several years, DCM has been occurring more frequently in dogs than before. And instead of just targeting large breeds, these newer cases are affecting a wide variety of breeds, including dogs that hadnt been considered to be at high risk for DCM. This suggests that a factor other than genetics is causing disease in these pets.

In response, the FDA teamed up with diagnostic laboratories, veterinary cardiologists, and nutritionists to investigate the recent DCM cases in dogs. They requested that veterinarians report any cases of canine or feline DCM to the FDA.

A total of 560 dogs with DCM have been reported so far, and the FDA is using these cases to look for any trends that may have factored into the disease. In particular, theyre focusing on blood tests, diagnostic findings and diet, as well as other factors.

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Evidence Shows That Risk Factors For Dcm Relate To A Dog’s Unique Health Situation And Is Not Related To A Grain

  • Pet Business Staff

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration concluded that there is no scientific evidence that a grain-free diet causes canine dilated cardiomyopathy .

The agency outlined the multiple potential factors that can, alone or in combination, contribute to dogs developing this rare and scientifically complex disease. The agency concluded that there is nothing inherently unsafe about a grain-free diet.

Dr. Steven Solomon, director of the FDAs Center for Veterinary Medicine, acknowledged that the complex scientific messaging on DCM and diet has contributed to misinterpretation about the safety of a grain-free diet. Dr. Solomon encouraged dog owners to select the diet that works best for their pets nutritional needs and previewed more multidisciplinary, scientific collaboration between the industry, veterinarians, scientists and other researchers that will further the understanding of DCM.

DCM impacts approximately 1 percent of dogs in the U.S. Historically, DCM has been linked to genetic predisposition, but emerging science has demonstrated an array of factors that may contribute to DCM, including breed, genetics, biology, pre-existing health conditions, digestive issues, obesity, processing of key nutrients and activity level.

Dr. Solomons full remarks are available online.

Understanding Your Dogs Food And Its Ingredients

Pet owners are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the food they feed their pets, especially in this situation. They should read the label of ingredients to find out what the top ingredients are. If they are feeding a grain-free food that has peas as a primary ingredient , they should consult with their veterinarian to determine if they need to make a change to their pets diet or find a pea-free dog food.

One guide for finding the right food for your pet is to make certain the label indicates that the food meets the requirements of the American Association of Feed Control Officers and is a Complete and Balanced diet. This is not a marketing term, but a designation to assure pet owners that the product is Complete, meaning that it contains all the nutrients required, and Balanced, meaning that the nutrients are present in the correct ratios.

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Additional Causes Of Dietary Taurine Deficiency

Food Preparation

Cooking meats degrades and drastically reduces the bioavailability of taurine in the food. If meats are cooked in water and the water is discarded, most of the taurine can be lost.

Moisture removal to make a dry food further depletes taurine in foods already deficient. Taurine amounts can be diminished somewhat when foods stay frozen for long periods of time as well, but not as much as the loss from cooking. If there is enough fresh meat, typically there will be enough taurine in a short-term frozen raw food.

Bile Salt Conjugation

Both dogs and cats constantly lose taurine through bile salt conjugation, especially if bile salts are not recycled by the body because they are bound by starchy compounds like rice bran or beet pulp. Both ingredients can be found in grain-free and grained foods. Dogs and cats will have an increased need for taurine if they are eating foods with these components.


Microbiome deficiencies cause the body to absorb taurine and other vital nutrients inadequately.

Highly processed, heat-treated, poorly balanced dry foods high in carbohydrates and starch not only overfeed the wrong species of bacteria for a dogs gut, but also fail to replenish appropriate bacteria or strengthen the microbiome.

Many pet foods source ingredients from industrial farming where antibiotics and chemicals are used. These will be present in the pet food and affect the microbiome of the pet.


Healthman’s Stressed Friend: Dogs Feel Owners’ Anxiety

Grain free dog foods linked to heart failure

Gelzer isnt sure what the results will be if those early stage dogs are switched to a different food. Some get better when the diet is changed, she said. Some stay the same and keep the status quo with medications and some die despite changing the diet and getting all the heart medications we can give.

While its clear that pet owners are feeding these brands because they are trying to do what they perceive as the right thing for their dogs, unless the dog has a documented sensitivity to grains, its probably not worth the risk at this point to feed these products, said Dr. Bruce Kornreich, a veterinary cardiologist in the department of clinical sciences at the Veterinary College of Cornell University and associate director of the Cornell Feline Health Center.

What we dont know is if used in these diets in place of grains are causing the problem, Kornreich said. Its also possible that could be some kind of toxin.

Kornreich suggests pet owners switch to a brand produced by a company with a long-standing history.

If a pet dog is showing any symptoms of the heart condition, including decreased energy, cough or difficulty breathing, the FDA urges owners to contact a vet as soon as possible.

Linda Carroll is a regular health contributor to NBC News and Reuters Health. She is coauthor of “The Concussion Crisis: Anatomy of a Silent Epidemic” and “Out of the Clouds: The Unlikely Horseman and the Unwanted Colt Who Conquered the Sport of Kings.”

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Animal Numbers In Dcm Reports Received Between January 1 2014 And April 30 2019


*Cats are generally more likely to develop hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

Dilated cardiomyopathy is recognized as a genetic condition in dogs, typically in large or giant breeds, such as the Doberman Pinscher, Great Dane, or the Irish Wolfhound. It is also seen in Cocker Spaniels associated with taurine deficiency. It is believed to be less common in small and medium breed dogs. We suspect that cases are underreported because animals are typically treated symptomatically, and diagnostic testing and treatment can be complex and costly to owners. FDA has observed a reporting bias for breeds like Golden Retrievers due to breed-specific social media groups and activities that have raised awareness of the issue in these communities and urged owners and vets to submit reports to FDA. Because the occurrence of different diseases in dogs and cats is not routinely tracked and there is no widespread surveillance system like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have for human health, we do not have a measure of the typical rate of occurrence of disease apart from what is reported to the FDA.

The Evolution Of ‘puppy Dog Eyes’

Generally when dogs develop a food allergy, its to a protein, Gelzer said. So, veterinarians will often switch to a food with a different protein source to treat the problem.

One of the big problems with DCM is that dogs dont show symptoms of the disease lethargy, exercise intolerance, shortness of breath until theyre very sick, Gelzer said.

She points to the example of clients who came in with a very sick dog that was diagnosed with DCM. The family had a second dog that seemed healthy, but because both were eating a grain-free dog food, Gelzer suggested bringing in the second dog to be checked.

What we dont know is if used in these diets in place of grains are causing the problem. Its also possible that could be some kind of toxin.

When we evaluated that dog, it also had decreased heart function, but it was still subclinical, she said. The dog didnt look abnormal because it was at an early stage.

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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.

Should You Be Concerned About Grain


In the , they examined labels of dog food products reported in DCM cases to determine whether the foods were grain-free , and whether the foods contained peas, lentils, chickpeas, beans, or potatoes . Their report states that more than 90 percent of foods reported in DCM cases were grain-free, 93 percent of reported foods contained peas and/or lentils, and 42 percent contained potatoes/sweet potatoes.

According to Dr. Klein, At this time, there is no proof that these ingredients are the cause of DCM in a broader range of dogs, but dog owners should be aware of this alert from the FDA. The FDA continues to work with veterinary cardiologists and veterinary nutritionists to better understand the effect, if any, of grain-free diets on dogs.

The FDAs July 2019 update includes the names of dog food brands that were named 10 times or more in reports submitted through April 30, 2019. Most reports were for dry dog food, but raw, semi-moist and wet foods were all represented.

  • Acana
  • Taste of the Wild
  • 4Health
  • Natures Domain
  • Fromm
  • Natures Variety
  • Nutrisource

Also Check: Purina Dog Food Rating

Learn More About This Canine Heart Disease Warning

The FDA also believes that there is a genetic component. However, many dogs that were researched in this investigation did not have a genetic predisposition to this condition. They are still working hard to figure out exactly what is the cause of canine heart disease in relation to the food.

One of the brands, Earthborn Holistic, released a statement saying, that the F.D.A. had not yet provided scientific findings connecting nutrition and canine dilated cardiomyopathy. With the report, the company said, the F.D.A. is simply attempting to gain more information as part of its evaluation process.

The FDA also said, We understand the concern that pet owners have about these reports. The illnesses can be severe, even fatal, and many cases report eating grain-free labeled pet food. They began investigating the situation a year ago. Since then, 560 dogs with a heart condition who ate food from one of those brands has been reported.

This number seems low, but it is worth looking into if your dog eats food from one of these brands. For instance, no matter how many cases, the FDA has a responsibility to report it and inform consumers. If you are concerned, talk to your veterinarian to determine if your dog really needs grain-free food.

What do you think about this FDA warning against several brands of grain-free dog food?

What Does This Mean For Our Patients On Grain

Pet owners searching for better answers are swayed by marketing, catch phrases, convenience, fancy packaging and perhaps overwhelmed by the glut of good and bad information online. But we all have the same intention. We want to provide our pets and patients with a happy and healthy long life.

The circulating news stories suggest that if we all revert to feeding our pets grains in their dry kibble foods, health will return.

However, we are not to assume that ALL grain-free food is unhealthy or that ALL grain-free food causes heart disease.

Keep the basics in mind about diet. Dont let clients run back to a diet with grain thinking it is protective to the heart. That is not the answer. What is in the food matters certainly as much as what is kept out of it.

Here are several practical ideas and tips about diets and taurine to help clients avoid more health risks with each new pet food fad.

I suggest veterinarians strive to provide the building blocks of health, evaluate pet food recipes, and focus on prevention.

Look for fresh, balanced, moisture-appropriate food for a carnivore. We can keep animals and their hearts healthy with the foods they are designed to feast upon. Use a fresh, species-specific diet as a sensible starting place to create health.

Remember that taurine is nearly non-existent in many plant-based proteins. We must evaluate ingredients in both dog and cat diets for taurine, regardless of the AAFCO standards.

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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
  • Coughing
  • Fainting
  • 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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