Canine dilated cardiomyopathy and grain free canine diets

In early July of this year the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a press release alerting pet owners and veterinary professionals about reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating certain pet foods containing peas, lentils, other legumes or potatoes as main ingredients.  The reason for this was an increase in the reported cases of DCM in breeds not typically genetically prone to the disease.  

Diets of concern include those that list items such as potatoes (including sweet potatoes) or  legumes (peas, lentils and other seeds of legumes plants and their protein starch and fiber derivatives) early in their ingredient list, indicating they are main ingredients.  Early reports from the veterinary cardiology community indicate that reported cases of dogs with DCM were eating these foods as their primary source of nutrition for time periods ranging from months to years.  High levels of legumes or potatoes appear to be more common in diets labeled as “grain-free”, but can also appear in other grain containing foods as well. Medical records of atypical DCM in 4 dogs showed low blood levels of the amino acid taurine, however 4 other cases of DCM in atypical dog breeds had normal taurine levels.  

At this time it is still unclear how these diets are connected to DCM in dogs.  Taurine deficiency is a well-documented potential cause of DCM, but it is not the only one.  There may be other factors involved such as ingredient sourcing, processing, amount used or how dogs process them individually that could be contributing factors.  

The FDA’s center for Veterinary Medicine and the Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network are working closely with board certified veterinary cardiologists and veterinary nutritionists to better understand the clinical presentation of the reported cases.  Additionally, they are analyzing information from case reports submitted by pet owners and veterinarians to help advance their ongoing investigation.

At this time, the recommendation of the veterinary cardiology and nutritionists community is to avoid diets that contain peas, lentils, legumes or potatoes  as the primary ingredients.  If you are currently feeding a diet that contains these items we   recommend changing to a diet that does not contain them. Taurine testing and cardiac diagnostics are both available.  If you would like more information or If you are unsure about your dog’s diet please contact our office for assistance.  As more information becomes available we will share it with our clients. To read the full FDA Press release from July go to the FDA’s website.