Choosing the right diet for your pet is a hard decision since there are so many choices, but it is key to their short and long term health. We want to assist pet owners with choosing a diet as best we can by educating them with current research and so, we advise that you review the following article regarding grain-free diets and possible life-threatening consequences.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today, for the first time, publicly identified the pet food brands most frequently associated with cases of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a serious and potentially fatal heart disease. The vast majority of cases involve dogs, but a few cases involving cats have been reported, as well.
In an update on its investigation into the potential link between certain diets and canine DCM, the FDA listed 16 pet food brands that have been named in 10 or more reports of the disease.
The top three brands are Acana, named in 67 reports; Zignature, named in 64 reports; and Taste of the Wild, named in 53 reports.
Starting in 2014 and through April 30, 2019, the FDA has received reports of 560 dogs and 14 cats diagnosed by veterinarians to have DCM. Of those, 119 dogs and five cats have died.
Not included in the figures are counts from “the many general cardiac reports” the agency received that did not involve a diagnosis of DCM. “However,” the FDA said, “this case information is still valuable, as it may show heart changes that occur before a dog develops symptomatic DCM.”
DCM is a condition resulting in an enlarged, weak heart that cannot pump blood efficiently. Dogs with DCM may tire easily, cough and have trouble breathing. More dramatically, they might exhibit sudden weakness, collapse, faint or die with no warning.
The large majority of reports received by the FDA were made in 2018 and 2019. The agency has been investigating the problem since last year. It announced in July that it had learned of cases of DCM in dogs eating certain pet foods, many labeled as “grain-free” and containing as main ingredients peas, lentils, other legume seeds (known as pulses) and/or potatoes.
While particular dog breeds are known to be genetically predisposed to DCM — breeds such as Doberman pinscher, Great Dane, Newfoundland, boxer, Irish wolfhound and cocker spaniel — many of the affected dogs were not of those breeds. That is what caught veterinary cardiologists’ attention early on.
The cause of the problem is unknown, and most researchers investigating the problem suspect the answer won’t be easy to identify. The FDA cannot say with certainty that diet is the culprit, although in an investigation update posted in February, the agency reported that some dogs diagnosed with DCM improved simply by changing their diet. Other investigators have reported similar observations.
At that time and again today, the FDA said: “Based on the data collected and analyzed thus far, the agency believes that the potential association between diet and DCM in dogs is a complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors.”
Because of the uncertainty, the agency has not asked the companies behind the implicated brands to recall them. “We have shared case report information with these firms so they can make informed decisions about the marketing and formulation of their products,” the FDA wrote in a Q&A on its canine DCM investigation.
The agency added, “We are also sharing this information with the public, but encourage pet owners to work with their veterinarians, who may consult with a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, prior to making diet changes.”
In analyzing ingredients and ingredient proportions of the identified diets eaten by affected animals, FDA researchers have found that more than 90% of implicated products were “grain-free,” meaning they did not contain corn, soy, wheat, rice, barley or other grains. Ninety-three percent contained peas and/or lentils.
Early on, some veterinarians investigating the problem posited that novel animal protein sources in diets, such as kangaroo, bison or duck, might be a factor. But in its latest update, the FDA reported: “The most common proteins in the reported diets were chicken, lamb and fish; however, some diets contain atypical protein sources such as kangaroo, duck and bison. No one animal protein source was predominant.”
The FDA said most of the identified foods in the canine cases are dry formulations, but not all. There also are raw food, semi-moist food and wet foods reported.
Although the subject or grain-free diets is still being researched, we recommend avoiding any grain-free diets until more information is discovered. There are special protein and limited ingredient diets, with grain, available for pets with allergies. Talk to your veterinarian about your concerns and the accessible options for your pet before making a decision. As always, make sure to transition your pets to a new diet slowly, over the course of 7-10 days.
*Information from https://news.vin.com/VINNews.aspx?articleId=53973