Veterinary cardiologists have noticed an increase in a certain type of heart disease in dogs known as dilated cardiomyopathy or DCM.
This increase in DCM cases seems to have an association with dogs-fed diets that are considered boutique, exotic or grain-free.
The FDA, veterinary nutritionists, and veterinary cardiologists are working to tease out what specific components of these diets might be contributing to DCM. At this time peas are being looked at more closely as the causative agent that has been added in place of grains. In the meantime, veterinary nutritionists and cardiologists recommend switching your dog off a grain-free diet.
Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM):
- A type of heart disease in which the heart becomes enlarged and does not beat or contract as effectively as it should.
- Symptoms can include increased sluggishness or sleepiness, coughing, decreased appetite, pale gums, and fainting.
- Boutique: Small pet food producer without the resources or size to run their own research studies, employ a veterinary nutritionist, or manufacture their own food.
- Exotic Ingredient Diets: Protein and plant sources in diets that are considered unstudied, unconventional and rare in the pet food market. Examples include kangaroo, lentils, peas, fava beans, buffalo, tapioca, barley, bison, venison and chickpeas.
- Grain-Free: A diet that does not use grainbased products like wheat, oatmeal, corn or rice.
- Taurine: An amino acid that helps build certain proteins in the body and is important to fat metabolism. Taurine is considered an essential amino acid in cats—one that needs to be supplied by the diet. Until recently, dogs fed a commercial diet rarely have taurine deficiencies
o Usually these diets substitute grains with other carbohydrate choices like potatoes, taro root, tapioca, peas or lentils.
What’s the deal with grains?
- Whole grains are NOT fillers in pet food! They add important proteins, vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and fiber to pet diets.
- Allergies to grain are exceptionally rare in dogs and there is no proof or reliable evidence that grain-free diets are better for our pets. In fact, grain-free diets have NOT been studied long-term and maybe a contributing factor to heart disease in dogs and cats.
o Gluten intolerance in pets is even rarer than grain allergies.
WHEN IS GRAIN-FREE OKAY?
- Pet nutrition is not one-size fits all. Certain dogs and cats may need very specific diets. Work with your veterinarian when considering a boutique, exotic or grain-free food to discuss the pros and cons of the diet for your pet. For example, your veterinarian may need to prescribe a food trial with an exotic protein or carbohydrate source dog food to help rule out food allergies or canine atopic dermatitis.
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