We have all seen reports come out over the past year about grain-free diets causing dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs. And due to those reports, the veterinary community started telling owners to only feed their pets the big brand diets such as Science Diet, Purina, or Royal Canin. However, Whole Pet Veterinary Hospitals believe nutrition is the key to curing underlying disease processes and increasing longevity in our companion animals. So we still recommend grain-free diets for our patients. And we still feed our own pets grain-free diets. We believed the science would come around and show that it wasn’t a “grain-free” issue that caused DCM, it wasn’t the taurine content in the food, and we didn’t need to feed diets rich in animal and wheat by-products to keep our dog’s hearts healthy.

Dilated cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart in which the chambers of the heart stretch and therefore are unable to pump blood appropriately through the body. This can lead to arrhythmias, congestive heart failure, and death. Historically, this disease has been mostly genetic, so we would diagnose it in Dobermans and Cocker Spaniels. When other breeds such as the Golden Retriever started developing DCM, cardiologists took note, reported this to the FDA, and researchers started looking into possible causes, including diet.

A study came out recently that evaluated biochemical compounds in foods and this could be the answer to why some dogs have developed diet-related DCM. The US Department of Agriculture and Tufts University researched and evaluated nine different diets that were implicated by the FDA in causing DCM in dogs. They compared these diets to nine other commercial brands with no known association with DCM. The results of this study are shown in the link below, and as the article states, “While we cannot establish with certainty if any of these compounds and ingredients are causal for disease, the findings support peas as a leading possible ingredient associated with diet-associated DCM in dogs.”

So, where do we go from here? I think to be safe, we stay away from feeding a strict, pea or lentil-based diet. And we definitely stray from the old idea that dogs should be fed one food every day for the rest of their life. These dogs who developed DCM were fed the same dry, processed food day in and day out. We prefer our patients to eat a variety of foods with different ingredients to keep their gut and immune systems healthy. Aim to cut back on processed food and feed more canned, freeze-dried, or crockpot diets. Do I put peas in my crockpot? Sure. But my dog is eating so many different ingredients that a few peas in her crockpot are not a concern. If you have any questions about how to feed your dog, feel free to reach out to us at any of our Whole Pet Veterinary Hospital locations.

Here is the link to the scientific report mentioned above: https://rdcu.be/cAJ0N