Grain-Free Diets and Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Lately, there had been a lot of chatter about the link between grain-free diets and heart disease. Where is this information coming from, and what do you need to know? 

Cardiologists across the US have been noticing a rise in a condition called Dilated Cardiomyopathy in breeds that are not known for this condition – most notably in Golden Retrievers. There have been more than 70 deaths associated with this condition.

After many lab tests, genetics tests, etc., the one common link was their diet. Almost all of the dogs were fed a grain-free +/- novel protein diets that were high in legumes and lentils.

This association is so strong that the Food and Drug Administration of the United States has launched a full investigation. Studies are also ongoing in the cardiology departments of major veterinary universities in the US.  See the following links for more information.

  1. FDA Investigation into Potential Link between Certain Diets and Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy
  2. UC DAVIS Veterinary Medicine Center form Companion Animal Heath

What is DCM?
Dilated Cardiomyopathy is a heart condition in which the muscles of the heart become weak and decreases the ability to pump blood around the body. The heart itself enlarges and can lead to murmurs, irregular heartbeats and heart failure. In the early stages, no signs are noticed at home or often on a physical exam by your veterinarian. As the disease worsens, patients may become lethargic or tired from exercise, coughing, difficulty breathing, abdominal distension, collapse, or death.

Is this Condition Treatable? 
From further investigating these “diet-induced DCM “ cases, when detected EARLY, the condition can be reversible with treatment. If not detected early, these cases may progress to permanent heart damage, potentially heart failure and death.

What can we do until we know more? 
While the studies and investigations are ongoing, the cardiologists are recommending avoiding the diets that list peas, chickpeas, potatoes or lentils as their first ingredients. Ensure you are feeding diets that meet the AAFCO standards, including diet trials that meet these standards. If you have any concerns about your dog, talk to your veterinarian regarding blood testing and heart evaluation.

UC DAVIS Veterinary Medicine

If you have any questions, please give us a call at 506.382.0061.

Written by: Dr. Nicole Hobbs-Ford, DVM

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