Grain Free Dog Food: does it cause heart failure? (FDA warning)

Grain Free Dog Food: does it cause heart failure? (FDA warning)

January 6, 2020 37 By Bertrand Dibbert


are grain free diets causing our dogs to
die of heart failure just what is the deal with the recent
FDA announcement that grain free diets are being investigated for this and
should you think about changing your dog’s diet Hi I’m Dr Alex from ourpetshealth.com helping you and your pet to live a healthier happier life and
today I just wanted to discuss the recent announcement by the FDA that a
number of grain free diets are causing heart disease in dogs that don’t
normally suffer from heart disease now this type of heart disease we’re talking
about is something called DCM or dilated cardiomyopathy and what this is is the
heart becomes enlarged the muscles don’t work properly and so the heart is just
not able to pump blood around the body to match the needs of that animal okay
so the FDA announcement goes the US Food and Drug Administration is alerting pet
owners and veterinary professionals about reports of canine dilated
cardiomyopathy or DCM in dogs eating certain pet foods containing peas
lentils other legumes seeds or potatoes as main ingredients these reports are
unusual because DCM is occurring in breeds not typically genetically prone
to disease the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine and the veterinary
laboratory investigation and response network a collaboration of government
and veterinary diagnostic laboratories are investigating this potential
association okay so that’s part of the announcements and I’ll leave a link to
the full announcement and down in the description below so what are the issues
that we need to discuss well I guess the first one is the fact that the number of
dogs affected is really very low compared to their total number of dogs
eating these diets now that’s not to say that that’s not a cause for concern this
may very well be the very tip of a big iceberg but I think it’s important to
put things into perspective and not have complete panic when we’re only talking
about a small number of dogs it’s definitely important and we should
definitely all be paying attention to this situation especially if you’re
feeding a grain free diet or thinking about it but yeah at the moment it seems
that only a small number of dogs have being
affected so the next issue is that the statement discusses a number of diets
that contain different pulses and things in different ingredients as the main
source in their diet so it doesn’t specifically say grain free although
diets that do contain lentils or potatoes and things like that is the
main component of their diet typically our grain free so we don’t know for sure
that we’re talking about completely grain free diets and we don’t know which
diets are involved so that’s certainly something to take on board we also don’t
know whether we’re dealing with just one diet or one manufacturer or whether
we’re dealing with multiple diets from multiple sources also at this very early
stage the cause is just completely unclear and that’s really what’s being
investigated so you know there are a number of questions is it a lack of
grain if they are in fact grain free diets it’s probably not the only the
only part of the story but it certainly could be is it just a lack of grain is
there a common ingredient that’s causing these problems so do all of these diets
have one certain ingredient and when that’s faded at certain quantities does
that cause DCM and heart failure in dogs there have also been a number of dogs
that have been affected that have had low taurine levels and this is something
that we know is associated with the development of DCM or dialectic
cardiomyopathy and so that may play a role
having said that only it was about half I believe of the dogs tested have very
low taurine and other dogs have normal levels so a low taurine is definitely
not the only story so could we in fact be dealing with a couple of different
causes and we’re dealing with diseases the same disease caused in dogs but from
a number of different reasons that’s certainly an important question to
answer so really it’s too early to be drawing
any firm conclusions it’s definitely an important and important development and
it could like I say actually be affecting a really large number of dogs
so heart disease can go unnoticed and undiagnosed for quite a period of time
so over time in DCM the heart will become bigger and
the efficiency of the heart to pump blood will slowly deteriorate and it’s
only when that reaches a critical point that your dog will start to develop
signs of heart failure so DCM can be diagnosed time in a number of different
ways and if you’re concerned about this at all then you should definitely be
getting in touch with your vet and seeing what they have to say and seeing
if there is anything that you should be thinking about doing for your pet
without a blood test or an ultrasound of the heart or x-rays there are a number
of things that we can do what this announcement does do is it does raise
some important or interesting questions about why we are feeding grain free
diets in the first place so it’s something that there are a lot of myths
misconceptions misinformation that are being thrown around and there is a lot
of marketing involved as well with a lot of food companies especially
kind of boutique food manufacturers really jumping on the grain-free
bandwagon that we have in human health as well so as far as our dogs go there
is to my knowledge absolutely no clear evidence to suggest that grain free
diets have any benefit to the vast majority of dogs so one of the big
things that’s thrown around is that grains are a source of allergy and food
allergies when in reality food allergies themselves are actually pretty uncommon
and in the vast majority of cases it’s actually due to the protein component so
that chicken the pork the beef or whatever kind of protein or animal
animal muscles is put into those diets sure there are a few individuals that
are allergic to grain but it’s a really tiny minority and that in itself
certainly doesn’t justify the mass feeding of grain free diets to my mind
so the other thing that is often quoted is that wolves are carnivores dogs come
from wolves and so dogs really can’t process can’t digest and have no use for
grain in diets well this actually kind of ignores an awful long period of
evolution and the dog genome is definitely not the same as the wolf
genome and the dog genome has developed to such an extent that there are a
number of genes that allow dogs to digest grains to a much greater
efficiency our wolves can so dogs are wolves and
they are able to digest and utilize grains so that’s something that’s not
really true the other issue with some of these grain free diets is that as I said
before there are a lot of more kind of boutique or smaller food companies that
are not only producing grain free diets but they’re producing diets that contain
kind of quite novel or quite exotic ingredients so that might be kind of
different types of meat of crocodile ostrich kangaroo whatever and different
pulses and seeds and things like that that haven’t traditionally been used in
pet food manufacturing and now that in itself isn’t a problem necessarily but
what it does mean is it means it can be quite hard to know whether a diet is
completely balanced and whether it’s being digested as would be expected so
every different protein every different ingredient will be digested in a
different way into a different extent and it might be that several ingredients
kind of interact and reduce or increase absorption of different different
vitamins and minerals compared to our standard diets also a lot of these
boutique and smaller feed companies they might not be or they’re very unlikely to
be feeding having long term feeding trials to assess kind of the quality of
the diets and to assess animals that are fed on these diets for a long period of
time before they’re released and what they’re often doing is they’re comparing
nutrient profiles between different diets and that can cause big problems so
like I say if you’re comparing one diet that contains say crocodile and lentils
compared to another diet that contains chicken and rice then if we’re just
trying to get the the more exotic ingredients profile very similar to the
other one then that actually may result in inappropriate feeding and it may
result in deficiencies or equally excess of certain vitamins and minerals which
may or may not cause problems and it might be for this reason why we’re
finding a low taurine in some of these dogs that are being investigated so we
just really need to be careful with marketing buzzwords because there’s not
really any legislation or control about the use of these these these terms so
grain free short there’s being touted as having health benefits
but really are there well we don’t know it may well be that a grain free diet is
better but we just don’t know so to suggest that there definitely is a
benefit to your dog is is you know maybe not true also hypoallergenic that is
very often kind of printed on food bags and really unless we’re talking about a
very small selection of diets that we use specifically as food trials to rule
out food allergies then hypoallergenic really doesn’t mean very much and in the
vast majority of cases is is unnecessary to be feeding your dog also natural a
lot of diets will claim to be natural and really our dog you can of what what
does this mean I think in a lot of cases it probably doesn’t mean what we think
it does and again it’s not really necessary it’s more of a kind of a
marketing term so a lot of these smaller brands they really focus heavily on
marketing and you know they produce fantastic adverts and videos and all
that kind of thing and they could be very compelling but perhaps the evidence
behind feeding them isn’t as strong as they would suggest so that’s not to say
that like like I suggested that’s not to say that grain free diets aren’t better
we just don’t know it might be that feeding a home prepared well balanced
diet is better for your dog than feeding a commercial food it might be that wool
feeding is better than then again the commercial diet when fed appropriate and
when fed in a balanced state but the fact of the matter is there’s just not
really any hard evidence or compelling a compelling body of evidence to suggest
that one diet is better than the other in many many cases diet is something
that it brings out a lot of passionate responses in a lot of people there are a
lot of stories thrown thrown around you know my dog was fed this food I switched
onto this food and their health improved massively really anecdotes are a very
poor form of evidence they’re really not evidence at all and you know what we
need and what would be fantastic as if we had some large-scale feeding trials
but you know they’re just not available at the moment hopefully they will they
will be developed in the future but you know we really need to watch this space
we certainly know that there are risks with some diets so for example role
feeding it does have an crease risk of conditioners like Salman
net Salmonella it does increase bacterial load installs and also
potentially a multi resistant bacteria installs now in a normal healthy adult
and adult household those things may not be too much of a risk but if there’s a
baby if there’s an elderly person or if there’s someone who’s immunocompromised
then that could definitely be a significant risk and it could cause a
really serious disease in those individuals so you know we need to think
are the benefits that we think they’re actually present and what are the risks
of feeding these diets and you know potentially this investigation will
highlight some of the risks with feeding a grain free diet but really watch this
space okay so that’s my thoughts on the FDA investigation into grain free diets
causing heart failure in dogs really there’s more questions than answers I
know but it’s that it is something that we really should watch this space we
should try and stay well informed and we should try and stay up to date with the
actual evidence and information that’s out there so I hope you found this
interested that interesting I’d love to hear your thoughts below are you feeding
a grain free diet while you worried are you thinking about switching or we’re
thinking of changing to a grain free diet and as this changed your mind I’d
love to hear but until next time i’m dr. alex from our pets health because
they’re family