Nutrition is a huge part of pet health, and one very close to each and every pet owner’s heart. We choose foods for our pet’s based on the desire to do the very best we can for them. When there is potential risk about a pet food, we want to determine whether it might be relevant to our pet. Over the years, various worrisome events have occurred which have been well noted in the history of pet nutrition. There have been errors in over-supplementation (vitamin D toxicosis) and errors in under-supplementation (taurine) of diets, as well as contamination issues. Each of them has produced a learning opportunity. Added to these, there have been fads, newcomers to food production, and marketing hoopla to complicate the picture. The following blog will provide some insight to the topic.
The most current pet food concern is that some foods may be associated with heart disease. A lot is not understood, and it is important to maintain perspective and differentiate what is factual information and from speculation until more answers are known.
In the Spring of 2018, with the first connections to heart disease noted, veterinary cardiologists, internal medicine specialists and nutritionists were called in, as well as the FDA. There seem to have been three categories identified regarding nutritionally associated dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM/heart muscle disease). Please see reference to Dr. L. Freeman, the unknowns of BEG (boutique companies, exotic ingredient and grain free diets and see the following link for full article:
Diet-associated DCM with normal taurine levels. While this form of the disease was first identified in dogs of breeds not predisposed to DCM that are eating BEG diets, it appears to also occur in dogs of typical DCM breeds that are eating a BEG diet.
Primary DCM in predisposed breeds that is unrelated to diet. This is the traditional, genetically-related DCM in typical breeds, such as the Doberman Pinscher, Boxer, Irish Wolfhound, and Great Dane.
Diet-associated DCM with taurine deficiency: This is the least common form we are seeing in our hospital. This appears to happen both in breeds predisposed to DCM and breeds that are not predisposed to DCM.
While the specialists strive to uncover why there have been new, unexplained cases of heart disease in young dogs, it should be noted that not all boutique type, grain-free food eating dogs have gotten sick. Of paramount importance in choosing a pet food is to ensure you have a diet formatted by a specialist in nutrition (Ph.D) who has an awareness of the issues and has ensured bioavailability of all the components of the food. If you would like more information on how to best ensure you are choosing a safe and balanced pet food, please check out:
Your veterinarian is your best resource for a diet recommendation. Diets should be chosen to be a good fit for the individual pet, taking their life stage, genetic risk factors and personal health histories into consideration. Food safety is another priority consideration. Often diets from major pet food producers such as: Hill’s Science Diet, Royal Canin, Iams, Purina and Rayne Canada are recommended. This is because these companies provide a high level of quality assurance. They test raw ingredients before they enter their facility, and again before product hits market. They guarantee their products and are able to trace lot numbers in recall situations as to what went to what supplier, and then which clinic. This tracking procedure is better than we do with human food!
Dr. Lisa Freeman is a boarded veterinary nutritionist who has provided an informative summary of data so far for pet owner consumption.
Please visit for more information:
The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association has published: https://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/pdfplus/10.2460/javma.253.11.1390.
Please also see Dr. Stern’s article breed specific article on DCM in Golden Retrievers https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6292607/ .
If you are concerned about whether your pet might be at risk based on their current diet, we recommend you consider the science in the food you are feeding, the nutritionist behind it, and the history of the company producing it. Your pet food company should be able to provide answers to your questions (see “questions” link above) when you call. Consult your veterinarian, who will listen for heart abnormalities, and discuss further options if appropriate for your pet and circumstance. Blood tests can be done to assess taurine levels, though your pet must still be eating the food in question when samples are collected. In this age of information overload, please do consider your resources, and ensure they are trustworthy, scientific ones.