Nutrition as an industry is ever changing and pet nutrition is no exception. As pet care professionals, we are often asked questions regarding appropriate nutrition from our pet parents. We recognize that you are presented with conflicting information in the media, on the internet, and in storefronts, so we wanted to do our best to help demystify the information. In 2018, the FDA released a warning that there was a possible link between grain free pet diets containing peas, legumes and potatoes/sweet potatoes and a significant increase in cases of Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs in unexpected breeds. Read More at FDS.gov
DCM is a heart muscle disorder that leads to weak function, heart enlargement, cardiac arrhythmias, and heart failure. Signs include exercise intolerance, weakness, panting, cough and collapse. DCM has a known genetic predisposition among Dobermans, but there is also a nutritional sensitivity known in Golden Retrievers, American Cocker Spaniels, and Newfoundland dogs. The condition was fatal in 20 % of the cases.
The ingredients of concern listed above are often used as grain substitutes in ‘BEG’ diets (Boutique diets, Exotic ingredient diets, or Grain free diets). These ingredients are considered to be of greatest concern if they are among the top 5 ingredients on the food bag.
The exact cause is not understood and is still under investigation, but some contributing concerns include:
• Diets primarily deficient in taurine due to lack of standardization in the food industry
• Diet processing leading to the destruction of nutrients
• Altered metabolism or decreased availability of taurine for adequate absorption
We are still learning as a profession but here at The Village Vet, we wanted to be sure to pass on our concerns and guidelines based on the most current information.
Our diet recommendations
If your pet is on a grain free diet with peas, lentils or potatoes/sweet potatoes as prominent ingredients and DOES NOT HAVE SIGNS OF HEART DISEASE we recommend gradually switching diets over the course of a week to:
• a diet that does not contain the ingredients listed above and contains grain such as rice wheat or corn
• a diet that meets the rigorous quality control methods and standard of assessment
▫ AFFCO standards of approval for your pet’s life stage (The Association of American Feed Control Officials: AAFCO.org
▫ the WSAVA Global Nutrition Assessment Guidelines published as a consensus of veterinarians from around the world: WSAVA.org
• If you have chosen grain free for your dog due to allergy concerns consider hydrolyzed diets or standardized limited ingredient diets. The vast majority of our patients (and staff) struggle with environmental allergies that are characterized by seasonal fluctuations. Food allergy does exist but it is very rare and protein sources are usually the culprits.
• If you do not want to change diets consider submitting blood taurine levels or imaging to assess cardiac size and function.
If your pet is on a grain free diet with peas, lentils or potatoes/sweet potatoes as prominent ingredients and DOES HAVE SIGNS OF HEART DISEASE:
• Please bring your pet in for assessment. Screening tests include EKG, x-rays, ultrasound and/or blood taurine levels
• Change your pet’s food gradually to a standardized food that includes grain over a week
• Consider taurine supplementation under the recommendation of your veterinarian
• Report the case to the FDA
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us directly if you would like further guidance or have additional questions. Many cases of compromised cardiac function improve dramatically over 6-12 months with appropriate diagnosis, dietary modification and medical management.
-Your Team at The Village Vet