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Grain free diet … potentiel danger for your dog ?

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In the last decade, the number of pet food manufacturers exploded. These companies offer a wide variety of recipes for your pets, from raw, organic, holistic and grain free. These formulas are very ‘’in’’, but are they really safe for your companions?

In the last few years, grain-free commercial recipes have been identified by veterinary cardiologists as being potentially responsible for a heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs. Patient developing a DCM will be asymptomatic at first. When the disease is advanced, dogs have symptoms of heart failure such as coughing, low endurance during exercise and shortness of breath.

It has long been established that DCM can be the result of a deficiency of a protein (taurine) for which certain breeds are genetically predisposed (Golden Retreiver, Cocker Spaniel, English Setter, Saint Bernard and Irish Woulfhound). For these cases, adding taurine supplement was usually sufficient to control the condition.

However, in the past few years, many large, medium-sized and non-genetically predisposed dogs have been diagnosed with DCM. Just in the Montreal area, veterinary cardiologists see between 2 to 4 cases per week. Even small dogs cats have been diagnosed with DCM.specialist have been trying to find out if a common factor could be identified with this spectacular and unusual rise in DCM diagnostic. In July 2018, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began formal investigations to assess the link between the use of grain-free food and DCM. Even though we are talking about a diet without grains, the problem also affects foods with exotic ingredients such as kangaroo, venison and vegetarian diets. Lentils and chickpeas are also being under investigation.

It appears that inappropriate nutritional balance and poor proportion of ingredients has an impact on taurine absorption and therefore makes animals susceptible of developing dilated cardiomyopathy. So far, very few cases of dogs fed with a veterinary formula have been reported compared to those eating a petshop formula mentioned above.

Veterinary cardiologists recommend that dog owners who feed their animals with these types of diets change for a formula that is not considered grain free and have them evaluated in cardiology. An ultrasound is generally recommended because, in the case of DCM, associated heart murmurs are often inaudible at auscultation and the condition could be advanced before the symptoms manifest themselves.

Fortunately, the majority of dogs diagnosed with DCM associated with grain-free diets have seen their condition improved (and sometimes resolved) with a change of diet. It is important to remember that it is not recommended and insufficient to add grain or taurine supplement to a suspect diet.

To avoid this heart condition, it is recommended to offer your pet a veterinary diet or one from a well established company that develops its recipes with a veterinary nutritionist. Over the next few years, we will carefully monitor the results of this investigation, which will, we hope, further clarify the relationship between some recipes and dilated cardiomyopathy and prevent this potentially life-threatening condition.

Company being monitored by the FDA :

Theses brand are ranked by the number of cases associated with DCM (between 67 and 10)

  • Acana
  • Zignature
  • Taste of the Wild
  • 4Health
  • Earthborn Holistic
  • Blue Buffalo
  • Nature’s Domain
  • Fromm
  • Merrick
  • California Natural
  • Natural Balance
  • Orijen
  • Nature’s Variety
  • NutriSource
  • Nutro
  • Rachael Ray Nutrish