Canine Diet-Induced DCM Revisited: Results of the Research Review Looking at the Recent Rise in Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Dogs

Did you stop feeding your dog grain-free diet in response to warnings from the FDA and veterinarians about the potential of diet-induced DCM?

In the summer of 2018 FDA responded to a red flag raised by veterinary cardiologists suspecting a correlation between new grain-free diets and the rise in dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs. Alerts and warnings were published everywhere; dog owners were concerned. The concern was real; the last thing anybody wants to do is to harm their dog by choice of their food.

It is always better to be safe than sorry.

The ways in which a diet can lead to health issues is when it:

  • lacks sufficient levels of a nutrient
  • contains an excess of a nutrient
  • contains a nutrient that can interfere with the absorption of another
Canine Diet-Induced DCM Revisited: Results of the Research Review Looking at the Recent Rise in Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Dogs

The reporting of the grain-free diets causing heart issues in dogs had me scratch my head. I was positive that the absence of grains wouldn’t be the cause. The replacement ingredient–particularly legumes–could potentially be the culprit.

Dogs did not evolve to live either on grains or legumes. But they were eating grains for a long time with a reasonable track record. A large proportion of legumes in dog foods is a new thing, not time-tested. So perhaps that where the problem lied.

Nobody really understood what’s going on, though.

The research review

The Journal of Animal Science published a research review in June 2020. This paper evaluated 150 related studies and found that dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs is mostly an inherited disease, and it is not caused by grain-free diets. The review didn’t find any conclusive correlation between these diets and DCM in dogs.

Is it possible that some of these diets do contribute along with other predisposing factors? Perhaps. But there is no good evidence they are the cause. More unbiased research that considers all potential factors is needed.

Things that can cause or contribute to DCM in dogs include:

  • genetics
  • myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle)
  • hypothyroidism
  • tachycardia-induced cardiomyopathy
  • heavy metals

Dietary involvement can be due to:

  • protein or taurine deficiency (such as prescription diets to treat urinary stones)
  • diets high in insoluble fiber
  • diets deficient in potassium, choline, thiamine, carnitine, copper, vitamin E and selenium
  • substances that disrupt thyroid function

Further information: Review of Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy in the Wake of Diet-Associated Concerns

Related articles:
Diet-associated DCM in Dogs: Veterinarians Share Their Thoughts
Canine DCM Symptoms: What Would Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) Look Like in Your Dog?

Further reading:
Grain-free Diets Not Linked to DCM in Dogs, Research Review Finds
Review of Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy in the Wake of Diet-Associated Concerns

Categories: ConditionsDilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)Heart disease

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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