Between late 2016 and early 2017, veterinary cardiologists began noticing a trend that linked grain-diets and heart disease in dogs. In July of 2018 the FDA released a public notification warning of the potential link. Let's look into a few common questions and myths regarding these developing links:
What is DCM?
- Canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a life-threatening disease of the cardiac muscle that decreases the heart's ability to generate pressure to pump blood through the vascular system.
- Certain breeds, such as Great Danes, Doberman Pinschers, Boxers, and Cocker Spaniels, are predisposed to DCM
- Symtoms of DCM include lethargy, weakness, weight loss, coughing, increased respiratory rate/respiratory effort, abdominal distension)
What diets are causing this concern?
- Diet related DCM is not associated solely with grain-free diets. Lisa Freeman, DVM, PhD, DACVN, and a professor at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, refers to this group of diets as "BEG" diets. These include boutique, exotic, and grain-free diets.
- it is important to note that the diets in question come from manufacturers that are small scale and have limited scientific background.
- While no specific diets have been implicated, ingredients of concern include peas, lentils, chick peas, white potato, sweet potatoes, and diets that include exotic meats, fruits, and vegetables.
- Raw/homemade diets are not a safe alternative. These diets put you pet at risk for many other health issues, and DCM has been diagnosed in patients eating homemade diets as well. If your pet has special needs that require a homemade diet, it is recommended that you work directly with a Board-Certified Veterinary Nutritionist.
What if my dog is eating a BEG diet?
- While there is no guarantee that a dog eating a BEG diet will develop DCM, the fact is that we don't yet know why it is happening to some dogs. DCM is a life threatening disease. If your pet is currently eating a BEG diet, we recommend that you reconsider.
- Contrary to popular belief, grain-free diets pose no heath benefit to your pet, and exotic diets are only helpful in situations of extreme food allergies.
- We recommend that you pick a diet (with grains and common ingredients) from a large company that has proven scientific research backing their products. If you have questions or would like a recommendation feel free to contact us.
- Monitor you pet for signs of DCM such as lethargy, weakness, weight loss, and coughing.
- If your pet is showing no signs of heart disease additional testing is up to you.