Certain pet food diets are being linked to heart disease in dogs. Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a severe condition that causes the heart muscle to stretch, resulting in a weak heartbeat.
It was commonly diagnosed in cats until 1987, when it was linked to a deficiency in TAURINE, an amino acid important to the metabolism of fats.
Since then, ALL commercial cat food diets include taurine. Thankfully, DCM is now a rare disease in cats, and mostly seen when they are being fed a vegetarian or home-cooked diet.
The same heart condition can occur in large breed dogs, such as Doberman Pinschers, Saint Bernards, Irish Wolfhounds, and Great Danes.
Cardiologists have recently noticed higher rates of DCM in other breeds, as well, observing that dogs that develop DCM are, almost always, on grain-free diets. Thankfully, with the supplementation of taurine, these dogs have had their heart disease reversed.
We do not yet understand why we are seeing an increase of DCM. What is known is that dogs with the condition are being fed grain-free, vegan, or home-prepared diets that usually have more potatoes, peas, lentils, or chickpeas as their main ingredients.
Could these ingredients be contributing to the issue? Or could it be that the protein source is often exotic: such as kangaroo, buffalo, or bison? It is known that kangaroo meat has low levels of taurine. Is it the ingredients within the diet or the lack of taurine causing the heart disease? What is known is that the heart disease is generally reversible with taurine supplementation.
What should you do with this information? If you are feeding a grain-free diet, you might want to reconsider.
There is no scientific evidence that grains contribute to any health problems in our pets, although an internet-search may say otherwise.
Most importantly, I would recommend feeding a diet from a pet food company with a long track record of excellent nutritional expertise, rigorous quality control standards, producing good quality food.
If your dog is diagnosed with DCM and is eating a grain-free, vegan, or home-prepared diet, I would recommend changing the diet to that of a well-known, reputable company. It is also important to have the taurine levels checked (this is a simple blood test), and begin supplementing with taurine. It will take 3 to 6 months to see any improvement with the DCM.
Also, make sure you are giving the prescribed heart medications to treat the disease.
The FDA has released a statement regarding this current issue and it can be found on Bell Rock Veterinary Clinic’s facebook page. You can also visit acvn.org to find a veterinary nutritionist. Please speak with your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns regarding your pet’s dietary needs.