Canine Heart Disease and Dog Food- A Summary of the FDA Update
Is My Dog’s Food Going to Cause Heart Disease?
This is the question on so many pet parents’ minds today and for good reason. The reports coming out in the media about the FDA study are alarming. Our pets are part of the family and we don’t want to feed them anything that could harm them. We have put together a summary of the FDA report and the tests the FDA has conducted to help answer questions and hopefully, set your mind at ease.
- The FDA has found no evidence that the ingredients in dog food were the cause of the heart problems in the dogs reported with Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). The FDA does not recommend switching your dog food without talking to your veterinarian first.
- There are no recalls on any dog foods because of Canine DCM related issues.
- 560 dogs have been confirmed with the diagnosis of DCM in the last 5+ years that the study covers.
- To put that into perspective, there are an estimated 77 million pet dogs in the United States.
What Causes DCM and How Did Dog Food Get Linked?
- The exact cause of DCM is unknown but there are 2 main factors associated with the disease
- Genetic factors of certain breeds, mostly large and giant breed dogs such as Great Danes, Boxers, Newfoundlands, Irish Wolfhounds, Saint Bernards, and Doberman Pinschers. It is also known to occur in American and English Cocker Spaniels
- Taurine or other amino acid deficiency
- A few years ago some veterinarians observed that they were seeing dog breeds with reported cases of DCM that were not known to be prone to this disease for genetic factors (most notably Golden Retrievers who were not previously classified as an at risk breed for genetic factors and are now be studied more closely to see why the prevalence is so high in this breed).
- They reported that many of these dogs were eating grain-free foods and believed that there might be a link between the food and the disease.
- It was thought that too much of the protein in these grain- free foods was coming from vegetable sources (including peas, lentils, and other legumes, & potatoes) instead of from meat-based sources.
- The veterinarians’ concerns were that the grain-free dog foods might not be providing enough meat protein to maintain proper levels of taurine.
- The FDA tested the ingredients of the foods eaten by many of these dogs and found no nutritional deficiency in these foods.
- The FDA and the veterinary community are still unsure whether a link exists between Canine DCM and dog food, so their investigations and studies will continue.
What is Taurine and Why Do I Keep Hearing About It?
- Taurine is produced in a dog's body when they consume meat
- Taurine is an amino acid that is thought to play a vital role in canine heart function.
- Amino acids help build protein which make muscles function properly.
- The heart is one of the biggest muscles in the body. Without the right levels of taurine, the heart muscle could fail to perform the way it should.
- With Canine DCM, the heart doesn't pump correctly which leads to an enlarged heart and other heart problems, and eventually can lead to heart failure.
- Low levels of taurine in some dogs’ blood have been linked to some cases of Canine DCM.
So What Should I Do About My Pet’s Food?
Add more MEAT!
The main concern raised with DCM and heart related issues and the link it may have to dog food, is the amount of taurine in your dog’s body. We know that taurine is made by your dog’s body when they consume meat. So, if you love your pet’s current dry food but want to be extra safe about making sure they have the nutrition they need, just add more meat in the form of a topper. Meat-rich toppers such as shredded meat cans, freeze dried bites, or frozen raw food make your dog’s mealtime healthier and more exciting!
Get your dog tested for taurine levels before switching foods.
If your dog is healthy and thriving on their current food, and there are specific nutritional reasons you picked it, then you can request a blood test at your veterinarian’s office to measure their levels of taurine. If results are at normal levels and your veterinarian doesn’t see any other signs or symptoms of heart issues, then you should be safe to stay on your current dog food.
Look at other formulas within your same food brand.
The ingredients suspected of having a possible connection to Canine DCM are high levels of peas, lentils, other legumes, and potatoes. So, before you ditch your brand of food completely check for other formulas that have little to none of the ingredients in question.
For questions and dog food recommendations, please reach out to us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, call us at 1-800-822-9759, or call or visit one of our stores for more help. (see Locations Page)
Is My Dog Food Going to Cause Heart Disease? Read our other blog post HERE