In July 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that they were investigating reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating certain dog foods, many labeled as grain-free.1 Many dog parents became justifiably concerned. Finding an appropriate, well-balanced, nutritious diet for your pup is challenging enough without learning that certain ingredients may be damaging your dog’s heart. The following article provides relevant information to help you better understand this concerning issue.
Grains—small, hard, dry fruits or seeds harvested for human or animal consumption—are classified as carbohydrates. The most frequently farmed commercial grain crops are cereals and legumes. Common grains include wheat, corn, barley, oats, rye, rice, and soy. Grain-free dog foods exclude these ingredients. However, dogs’ diets should include carbohydrates, which provide energy, and grain-free diets include alternative carbohydrate sources such as potatoes, peas, lentils, and pulses.
Grains can be an excellent nutrient source for dogs, providing carbohydrates, fats, and antioxidants. However, these ingredients can be problematic for dogs affected by certain conditions such as:
DCM is a canine genetic condition typically recognized in large or giant breeds such as Doberman pinschers, golden retrievers, Great Danes, and Irish wolfhounds. As a result of having a taurine deficiency, cocker spaniels also may develop DCM. Between January 1, 2014, and April 30, 2019, the FDA received 515 canine DCM reports, a significant increase from previous years. Many cases included dog breeds that had not been recognized as having a genetic predisposition to the disease, causing concern that DCM cases were increasing in dogs not previously considered genetically predisposed. Canine diseases aren’t routinely tracked, and—apart from reports the FDA receives—the typical disease occurrence rate is not known. When investigating the matter, the FDA found that 452 dogs were fed a dry dog food formulation, and 91% were fed a grain-free diet. This information spurred the FDA’s grain-free foods warning. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) estimates that approximately 77 million pet dogs live in the United States, and most have been eating dog food without developing DCM, but the FDA believed this information was concerning enough to inform the public.1 Diet-induced DCM cases have been placed in two categories2:
DCM is a disease that decreases the heart’s ability to generate enough pressure to pump blood throughout a dog’s body. The disease causes the heart ventricles to dilate, resulting in ventricular wall thinning, and in many cases, dilation occurs in all four heart chambers. The heart loses the ability to pump effectively, resulting in a decrease in the amount of oxygenated blood flowing through the body and blood congestion in the lungs. Relevant information includes3:
The FDA is still conducting research to elucidate the reason for an uptick in DCM cases, and no conclusive answers have been found. Many dogs thrive on grain-free foods and never experience heart complications, so—to determine this issue’s cause—more studies are needed. Each dog is unique, having different nutritional needs, and your veterinarian is your most reliable source to determine your pup’s best diet.
When deciding whether to feed your dog a grain-free diet, consult the person who is most familiar with your pup’s lifestyle, health status, and disease risk—your veterinarian. Ollie offers many dietary options to meet your dog’s needs, regardless of their dietary requirements. The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.
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