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FDA Warns Pet Parents About Grain-Free Dog Food And Heart Disease

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned that dogs feed grain-free foods that have peas, lentils or potatoes as main ingredients are showing signs of a unique condition that may cause enlarged hearts, and may lead to death in dogs.

The condition is called canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and is prevalent in certain breeds. Concerningly, though, the FDA warns that it is showing up more and more in atypical breeds, and they believe it might be from a nutritional deficiency (low taurine) in grain-free foods that have peas/lentils/legumes/potatoes as ingredients.

Related: Encouraging Research Links Heart Failure Cause and Treatment for Dogs and Humans

Currently, the FDA is not specifying brands that they are investigating, as they believe the ingredients in the foods are more telling than the brands. The DCM affected dogs seem to have all been fed similar dog foods–those containing peas, lentils, other legumes or potatoes as base ingredients.

Dr. Martine Hartogenisis is with the FDA and says that they are looking at a potential link between the DCM diagnoses and those foods, and they encourage pet owners and vets alike to report any DCM cases–especially in dogs who are not known to develop DCM.

DCM can lead to an enlarged heart and can develop into congestive heart failure. This can be fatal in dogs, so the FDA advises to watch dogs fed those types of foods for lethargy, weight loss and even coughs sometimes.

In cases where diets are modified early and vet treatment occurs, the FDA suggests that heart function may improve in dogs who do not have predisposed genetic links to the disorder. Great Danes, Newfoundlands, boxers, Doberman pinschers and St. Bernards are some breeds who have genetic predispositions.

Alarmingly, though, the FDA reports that cases have been found in golden and Labrador retrievers, whippets, miniature schnauzers, a Shih Tzu, a bulldog and an assortment of other mixed breeds.

Related: DIY Dog Food: Up at the Cottage Cheese; Chicken Dog Food Recipe [Video]

The FDA says that diets of dogs reported to the FDA to have DMC consistently included foods that had potatoes, peas, lentils or legumes as well as their protein, starch and fiber bases early on in their ingredient lists. The higher on the ingredient list, the more of the ingredient included in the food, and the FDA says that early reports from the veterinary cardiology community shows that dogs eating those foods for long periods od times seem to be showing higher cases of DCM. They are clear to note that those foods tend to be more common in ‘grain-free’ foods, though they are not sure of the link.

IF your dog is diagnosed with DCM, a change in diet is imperative and should be done with the help of a licensed veterinarian. The FDA says that taurine deficiency is a potential risk factor for DCM, and could be the culprit, so taurine levels are critical.


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