The FDA has recently released a third report on the emerging epidemic of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), and it’s potential link to a number of “grain-free” dog foods.
Many of these foods list as their main ingredients a high proportion of peas, lentils, other legume seeds (pulses), and/or potatoes in various forms (whole, potato flour, etc.) It may be that one of these ingredients is the primary culprit, or it may be that their inclusion excludes some other essential component.
The FDA is continuing to research the connection and is advising pet owners that grain-free foods from the following manufacturers have been strongly linked to the disease: Acana, Zignature, Taste of the Wild, 4Health, Earthborn Holistic, Blue Buffalo, Nature’s Domain, Fromm, Merrick, California Natural, Natural Balance, Orijen, Nature’s Variety, NutriSource, Nutro, Rachael Ray Nutrish.
While the exact link between these foods and this often fatal illness isn’t yet clear, what is clear is that there is a strong correlation. We are recommending that dog owners switch their pets away from these foods rather than put them at risk of DCM.
Reported DCM cases in dogs on grain-free diets have spiked alarmingly, going from 3 reported cases in 2017, to 320 in 2018, to 197 already reported in the first third of 2019. Many of these cases are in breeds with no genetic predisposition to the illness, and a number of them have been in pets in the same household, being fed the same food. For the large majority of dogs, there is no health reason for them to be on grain-free foods.
Canine dilated cardiomyopathy is a disease that causes the muscle wall of a dog’s heart to become thinner, and the heart to enlarge. As this happens the weakend organ pumps blood less effectively, and the dog becomes very likely to develop congestive heart failure and eventually die. DCM can develop over a relatively short period of time. A pet may have very subtle signs at first which escalate to critical illness quite suddenly.
Symptoms of Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy may include:
- Loss of Appetite
- Rapid and excessive breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Abdominal distension
- Sudden loss of consciousness
If your dog is regularly eating a food that is labeled “grain-free” or includes any of the ingredients listed above as a main ingredient—that is, an ingredient in the first ten listed on the packaging–we strongly recommend that you change their food for a nutritionally balanced food from a reputable pet food manufacturer.
We have always recommended and continue to recommend pet foods from companies that have the resources and interest in doing long-term research on optimum pet nutrition and health, and the best possible supply-chain management to ensure ingredient quality.
If you would like to consult us on the best diet for your particular dog or would like advice on transitioning your dog from a “grain-free” food to a more balanced diet, please reach out to us.
If you believe your pet may have any of the symptoms of DCM listed above, particularly if they have been on a grain-free diet, please seek veterinary care. DCM is a serious illness which will accelerate rapidly without treatment.