Grain-Free Diet Statement

Grain-Free Diet Statement

In July, the FDA announced a possible correlation between grain-free diets in dogs and a heart disease called Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM).  Given the current popularity of such diets, this article was met with alarm from many pet owners who are currently feeding such diets. Certain dog breeds, such as the Doberman, Boxer and Great Dane, have a familial predisposition for this heart disease.  However, cardiologists were beginning to see an increase in incidence in atypical breeds, many of whom were being fed grain-free, exotic protein diets containing such alternate ingredients as peas, chickpeas and other legumes.

At this time, there is not enough information to explain the reason for this connection.  Taurine, an amino acid which may be deficient in dogs with DCM, was not found to be deficient in all affected dogs.  Additionally, the number of cases identified is relatively small at this time.

If your dog is currently eating a grain-free diet to manage an allergic skin disease or gastrointestinal sensitivity, the benefits of continuing to feed this diet probably outweigh the current risk.  However, if your choice to use a grain-free diet is based upon other considerations, you might wish to switch to a more traditional dog food manufactured by a reputable company.

Although CVCA, our local cardiology group, characterized DCM as a common heart disease in dogs, I believe mitral insufficiency is a far more common cause of murmurs and heart failure in most breeds. However, if your dog has been diagnosed with a murmur, you might also consider a switch to a more standard diet to avoid the development of a second cardiac condition.

Any diet changes should occur gradually, over a period of at least a week to avoid gastrointestinal upset caused by a more abrupt change. I usually recommend starting with 25% of the new diet with 75% of the old diet for at least two days, then change to 50% of each for the next two days, and finally 75% new diet to 25% for the final two days before continuing with the new diet exclusively.

As always, the doctors at Falls Road Veterinary Hospital would be glad to help you determine the best options for your own pet.

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