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Grain Free Diets and Heart disease in Dogs

Grain Free Pet FoodIn the past year, it has come to the attention of the FDA that dogs on certain grain free diets were being diagnosed with a type of heart disease called Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM).  DCM is a condition where the muscle of the heart becomes enlarged and starts to have trouble pumping which results in fluid buildup in the lungs or abdomen.  DCM is not an uncommon disease in some breeds, what was interesting in this situation was that the breeds being diagnosed were not of the typical breed for this disease and that they were all being fed diets labeled as grain-free.  The FDA is currently investigating whether or not the legumes and potatoes used to replace the grains are to blame.  Legumes (notably peas, beans, lentils, chickpeas, soybeans, and peanuts) and potatoes (including sweet and red potatoes) do not provide a dog with an appropriate amount of taurine.  In some dogs, taurine deficiency can contribute to heart disease and failure.    

For healthy dogs not showing any signs of heart disease, the easiest and least invasive option at this time is to transition to a diet that does not use legumes and potatoes as a main ingredient (if any of these are on the ingredient label before the vitamins appear, they are a main ingredient).  Additional options include an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) and blood taurine concentration testing.  If your dog is on this type of food and you are hesitant to change it at this time, the veterinarians at Packerland can discuss taurine supplementation options and/or further diagnostics with you at any time.