Be Informed: The Truth Behind the FDA Investigation into DCM and Grain-Free Diets for Dogs

The FDA continues to investigate a potential dietary link between canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and dogs eating certain grain-free dog foods, despite any solid conclusions.

On June 27, 2019, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) issued an update on its investigation connecting certain canine diets and Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM), a type of canine heart disease, to grain-free diets. DCM impacts less than 1% of dogs in the U.S., with only .000007% reportedly related to diet.

DCM occurs when a dog’s heart muscle creates an enlarged heart. As the heart and its chambers become dilated, it becomes harder for the heart to pump, potentially causing heart valves to leak, which can lead to a buildup of fluids in the chest and abdomen, otherwise known as congestive heart failure. DCM is prevalent in larger dogs, with multiple possible causes, including taurine (a sulfur-containing amino acid important in the metabolism of fats) deficiency, a well-documented as a potential cause of DCM.

However, the FDA is focused more on diet as a cause despite The American Veterinary Medical Association estimating 77 million pet dogs in the United States, with the majority eating pet food without apparently developing DCM.

The dog foods in question are those containing legumes such as peas, chickpeas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes listed as primary ingredients. The FDA began investigating this matter after it received reports of DCM in dogs that had been eating these diets for a period of months to years. However, the FDA has little evidence to make any final conclusions or to take any action.

The FDA continues to believe that the potential association between canine diet and DCM is a complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors, and that the actual cause has still yet to be determined.

Facts from the FDA investigation:

• Among all the cases from all brands that were reported to the FDA, the overwhelming majority of impacted dogs belonged to breeds genetically predisposed to DCM, a disease that was first discovered in the 1980’s, well before the grain-free diets were available for pets.
• The DCM cases reported to the FDA included dogs who ate both grain and grain-free diets.
• Three veterinarians that assisted the FDA in their investigation published an article in the Journal of American Veterinary Medical that stated,

The extent of this issue is not clear, not all cases have been confirmed to be linked to diet, and a true association has not been proven to exist.

Millions of dogs that suffer from gluten allergies are able to live healthy lives because of grain-free solutions like those carried at Brookside Barkery and Bath. If you switched to your dog to a grain-free diet, think back to the reasons why you made the decision. Maybe to help prevent leaky gut syndrome, eliminate food sensitivities or intolerances to a particular grain or to maintain optimal weight in your dog. The list goes on.

If you are concerned, have your veterinarian measure your dog’s methionine, cysteine and taurine levels in both whole blood and plasma, and send it to a diagnostic laboratory experienced with the appropriate reference ranges for circulating taurine. If the levels are lower than normal, discuss the appropriate next steps with your veterinarian.