In July 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released news of an on-going investigation regarding certain types of dog food that may have a potential link to canine heart disease. Over the past year, they have been investigating the reported cases of Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs, paying special attention to the brands of food each dog was eating.
After extensive research, in June 2019, the FDA released a list of sixteen dog food brands that are being investigated further for a potential link to canine heart disease.
Studies Point to “Grain Free” Dog Food
While there have been no official recommendations from the FDA to change your dog’s food, the studies done thus far have pointed to many brands that are “grain-free”.
These foods replace grains with ingredients like potatoes, peas, lentils and legume seeds as their primary ingredient makeup, resulting in a low-protein and high-carbohydrate formula.
Some research has led to the thought that diets high in carbohydrates and low in protein make it more difficult to naturally produce taurine, an essential amino acid, especially in larger dogs.
A taurine-deficiency is thought to be a large contributing factor to the onset of DCM.
The majority of foods being investigated are dry kibble formulas, though they do not solely make up the list. Currently, there is no official recommendation for pet owners to feed their dogs a non grain-free option, but many veterinarians, including Dr. Karen Becker, are recommending a shift away from these formulas.
It’s important to note that within this investigation, the FDA is also considering data that signifies a genetic predisposition to DCM that some larger breeds naturally have. Breeds such as Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers and Great Danes are often reported to be the most likely to have heart disease as they age.
However, both the FDA and veterinarians started to take notice of a potential link between diet and heart disease in canines when heart disease started to become more frequently reported in smaller breeds that were not previously known to be at risk.
What is DCM?
Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a form of heart disease that commonly affects larger breeds of dogs, the most common being Golden Retrievers, Great Danes and German Shepherds.
It involves the enlarging of the heart muscle, which makes it more difficult for the heart to beat and can lead to a build-up of fluids in the dog’s abdomen or chest. This build-up of fluid can lead to congestive heart failure.
If you are concerned about your dog, it’s best to know the symptoms of DCM and how to watch for them.
What Does this Mean For Your Dog?
If you are currently feeding your dog a grain-free formula, it does not mean that they automatically will be at risk for developing heart disease. However, it is important to make sure that they have a good intake of essential proteins, nutrients and amino acids within their diet.
If you are looking to switch your dog’s diet, raw or gently cooked food is a good option for creating a well-balanced, healthy diet for your pup - although it is always best to consult your veterinarian before making any changes.