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Is Your Dog’s Food Damaging Their Heart?

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When it comes to the booming market of pet food, it’s hard cutting through all the marketing and hype to get through to foods that are actually good for your dog. Commercial dog foods, for instance, follow human nutrition trends very closely, so it’s no surprise seeing an increase in ‘grain-free,”organic,’ ‘natural,’ and even ‘vegan’ labels of kibble and canned canine foods. But is it really necessary to follow every fad and jump aboard every nutrition trend when it comes to your pet? According to experts, not only that’s it’s not required, it can be harmful to them.

For some time now, veterinary experts have been warning that there’s no proof that pets could benefit from grain-free foods: there simply wasn’t enough evidence to make these claims anything more than a clever marketing strategy. Then last month, FDA expressed concerns about a link between grain-free foods and a sudden rise of dilated cardiomyopathy cases in dogs. While there’s still extensive research to be done before any assumptions can be made, there’s talk that the main culprit, in this case, is not the absence of grains, but the unusual choice of protein that accompanied the ‘grain-free’ label.

In an interview he gave for ABC television, Jake Jacobson, a veterinary cardiologist at Veterinary Specialty Care in Mount Pleasant, blames trendy dog foods for what he believes is a dangerous lack of taurine in their diets. Taurine is an essential amino acid that, among other things, keeps your pet’s heart healthy, and its deficiency can lead to enlarged heart size (known as dilated cardiomyopathy) and, potentially, congestive heart failure. While the levels of taurine have been well-documented in common protein sources, such as chicken or beef, there isn’t enough data about unusual ones, such as kangaroo, bison, or venison, to name a few. He claims that there’s a high probability that these fad foods simply don’t have enough taurine in them to keep your pooch’s heart healthy.

Whether or not this turns out to be the case, this devastating situation should definitely teach all of us pet parents one thing: no matter how good they sound, hot new trends in the pet industry are not always the best thing for our four-legged babies. Your pet’s diet has a tremendous influence on their overall health, so it’s crucial to take great care when choosing what to feed them. While doing your own research is definitely commendable (and even recommended), it’s best to leave the final say to professionals: consult with a veterinary nutritionist to make sure that any dietary changes you make will actually benefit your pooch, not the other way around.


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