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Grain Free Diets & Heart Disease in Dogs

You may have heard in the news or social media lately that grain-free diets are causing heart disease in dogs. As a pet owner, this sounds very scary! Here we will discuss the facts about those reports and what you should be aware of as a pet owner.

It is true that some commercial diets have been identified in causing increased risk of a type of heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs. Most importantly, even in dog breeds that don’t usually get this disease.

So of the dogs that were reported to have DCM that did not have a genetic predisposition for this heart disease,  90% were eating grain-free diets and 93% were eating diets with lentils and/or peas as a main ingredient.

Why would grain free diets cause heart disease?

Dry dog food is made into kibble by the virtue of foodstuffs containing lots of carbohydrate.  In order to achieve this kibble form still, the grain is often replaced by legumes in these diets.  Legumes could cause a deficiency in an amino acid called taurine, which is a known cause of this type of heart disease.

The FDA study found that the heart disease increase is not completely and so easily explained only by a taurine deficiency. This is a problem with many factors and the investigation is ongoing. Other potential problems could be issues with other ingredients in these diets, or how dog food companies are sourcing or processing their legume ingredients.

Have you heard of ‘the list’ of dog food companies associated with heart disease?

In their most recent report, the FDA listed the dog food brands most commonly associated with heart disease. Some brands have more heart disease cases than others.

The FDA results are summarized in a table below. The numbers indicate the number of heart disease cases:

https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/news-events/fda-investigation-potential-link-between-certain-diets-and-canine-dilated-cardiomyopathy

What does ‘the list’ mean for pet owners?

It DOES mean: The grain-free diets of these companies have been most commonly associated with causing heart disease.

This DOES NOT mean:  All dog foods from these companies cause heart disease.

What if my dog is eating one of these foods?

  • Talk to your veterinarian: They may recommend a diet change, especially if your pet has diagnosed heart disease or symptoms of heart disease (coughing, panting/difficulty breathing, decreased tolerance to exercise, collapse).
    This is an ongoing investigation. New results and recommendations may emerge in the future.

What are some tips for choosing a pet food?

  • Ingredients and processing within Canada
  • A well-known brand with a good reputation
  • A brand with both pet store and veterinary formulations of diets
  • Diet has undergone AAFCO feeding trials

For a discussion about heart disease or how to choose a diet or your pet call Douglas Square Pet Clinic today!