Food For Thought: US FDA Investigating Potential Link Between ‘Grain Free’ Diet and Heart Disease in Dogs

Researchers at UC Davis Veterinary School (widely recognized as one of the top Veterinary Schools in the world) are looking at a potential link between grain free diets and a devastating heart condition called Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Golden Retrievers.  It is possibly linked to Taurine, an essential amino acid critical for the heart to function properly.  While dogs have the ability most of the time to make their own Taurine (cats do not) the taurine levels are low in some of the affected dogs who are fed ‘grain free’ diets.

The exact mechanisms are not yet fully understood but based on what they know so far, the researchers involved are recommending that pet owners:

  1. Evaluate the diet that you are feeding your pet. If the diet is boutique, contains exotic ingredients, or is grain free, you may consider a diet change to one without these properties. Talk to your veterinarian about the FDA announcement and what diet may be best for your dog.
  2. If you are concerned about your dog based on what you are feeding, watch closely for signs of heart disease such as weakness, slowing down on walks, coughing, fainting or trouble breathing. Your veterinarian may also recognize early heart disease by hearing a heart murmur or abnormal heart rhythms. If you observe these things or your veterinarian is concerned, additional testing may be indicated such as x-rays, blood tests, EKG, or heart ultrasound (echocardiogram).
  3. If your dog is diagnosed with DCM, particularly if eating a diet that meets the criteria listed above:
    Ask your veterinarian to test blood taurine levels.
    Report the findings to the FDA.
    Change your dog’s diet as directed by your veterinarian’s recommendations.
    Ask your veterinarian to help you identify a dose for taurine supplementation.
    Seek guidance from a veterinary cardiologist.
    Follow the instructions from your veterinarian or veterinary cardiologist as repeat evaluations and other medications may be needed. It can take multiple months to see improvement in many cases of diet-related DCM.

Link to original article:  UC Davis Investigates Link Between Dog Diets and Deadly Heart Disease