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
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:
- myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle)
- 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