A message from the doctors and staff at Truesdell Animal Care Hospital and Clinic
You may have heard about a link between grain-free diets and a heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs. Starting in 2014, the FDA received reports of DCM in dog breeds not previously known to have a genetic predisposition. This spurred research into potential causes, and an association was made between DCM and boutique, exotic ingredient, and grain-free (BEG) diets. The actual cause of DCM has not been determined but it is believed to be multifactorial and complex.
If your dog is currently eating a BEG diet, don't panic. Most dogs eating these diets do not develop DCM; however, we do recommend transitioning to a diet that includes grains and a conventional protein source. We recommend Royal Canin, Hill's/Science Diet, Purina, and Iams/Eukanuba brands because these companies have long-standing dedication to ethical nutritional research. It is unnecessary to test a taurine level if your dog is asymptomatic for heart disease. If your dog needs a hypoallergenic diet, we recommend transitioning to Royal Canin Hydrolyzed Protein Hypoallergenic diet.
Signs of heart disease include fatigue, coughing, shortness of breath, and fainting. Schedule an appointment if you see any of these signs. If your dog is symptomatic, we will discuss measuring taurine level as well as performing other tests to assess the heart.
The FDA released an update on this condition on June 27th, which you can view here.
DCM results in thinning and weakening of the heart muscle. Over time the heart muscle stretches, and the heart becomes dilated. These changes result in poor function. Affected dogs eventually succumb to a fatal arrhythmia or congestive heart failure.
In December 2018, a commentary on current concepts was published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. You can view the article here
Cumming's School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University has a Clinical Nutrition Service. This is a link to Tuft's articles on grain-free diets.
The Tufts website is an excellent resource for other nutritional topics as well. Please let us know if you have any questions about your pets nutrition.