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Grain-Free Diets and DCM in Dogs

Grain-Free Diets and DCM in Dogs

While it’s great that pet owners are putting so much thought into their pet’s diets, the truth is that grain-free pet foods and those with exotic protein sources may not be the healthiest choice for your pet.

A study done at the University of California at Davis College of Veterinary Medicine has found that there may be a link between potentially fatal heart disease in dogs and grain-free foods that contain exotic meat sources and peas, potatoes, beans and other legumes. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has also issued an alert and opened an investigation into the link between these foods and a higher incidence of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs.

What most of these canines have in common—aside from being breeds that are usually not predisposed to DCM—is that they were eating limited-ingredient, grain-free diets with unconventional protein sources such as kangaroo, bison, or venison. They also showed a deficiency in the amino acid taurine, necessary for healthy heart function in both dogs and cats.

While the link remains unclear, there seems to be an association between the vegetables and legumes used to replace grains as an ingredient in dog foods, exotic protein sources and the absorption of taurine. Breeds that are not usually predisposed to DCM but have shown a susceptibility to developing the disease because of taurine deficiency include cocker spaniels, Newfoundlands, and golden retrievers.

So what should you feed your pet? Meat should be in the top ingredients of any food you buy—but grains are not the enemy. Aggressive marketing has led many people to assume grains are just “fillers”, but the fact is that grains provide necessary vitamins, minerals and fatty acids and grain allergies are very rare.

Your best bet is to consult your LTAH veterinarian about your pet’s specific needs based on breed, lifestyle and age. Call us to schedule a consultation at 805-369-2222.