FAQ: Grain Free Diets and Heart Disease

Recently the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine has released a study which implicates grain-free diets as a contributor to dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs and cats.  We have a number of patients who eat grain-free diets so we feel it is important to address some of the questions regarding the topic and discuss next steps.

What is dilated cardiomyopathy?

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a condition resulting in an enlarged, weak heart that cannot pump blood effectively.

Which foods are linked to this condition?

In July of last year, the FDA were made aware that many foods labelled as “grain-free” were a common factor in dogs who developed DCM.  While DCM is a common disease in certain breeds, it was the number of uncommon breeds developing the condition which caught the attention of veterinary cardiologists.  Many of these diets contained the following as main ingredients meaning the ingredient in question was listed within the first 10 ingredients in the ingredients list, before vitamins and minerals:

  • Peas
  • Lentils
  • Legume seeds (also known as pulses)
  • Potatoes

What is it about these diets that is causing DCM?

The answer to this question is not clear yet, in face, at this point the FDA cannot say for sure that the diet is to blame however, data suggested that after some dogs were diagnosed with DCM, they improved after switching diets.  It is ultimately believed that the potential association between grain-free diets and DCM is complex and may involve several factors.

Should I switch my pet off of a grain-free diet?

At this point in time, there is more research to be done on the correlation between these types of food and the development of DCM.  The data that has been documented up to this point is compelling and we believe it should be taken seriously.  Dr. Todd is recommending switching pets who are on a grain-free diet on to a new diet which do have a grain component and do not list any of the above ingredients as a main ingredient.

Is my pet at risk if they have already been eating a grain-free diet up until this point?

No, not necessarily.  During your pet’s physical exam, the Doctor listens to your pet’s heart and completes a thorough check for murmurs and arrhythmias.  If you have not been informed of a concern with your pet’s heart up until now, there is no reason to believe that they have been affected by consuming a grain-free diet.

Which food would you recommend switching to?

We have many high quality, nutritionally balanced veterinary exclusive diets available that we can confidently recommend based on feeding trials and quality assurance standards.  Many times, these maintenance diets are comparable in cost to some of the diets available in store. The brands that we recommend in store are Royal Canin, Hill’s Science Diet and Purina Pro Plan.  We would be very happy to discuss a diet recommendation tailored to your pet so please call or e-mail us if you would like a personalized recommendation!

If I do decide to switch foods, how do I transition?

We recommend slowly transitioning your pet from one diet to another of the course of 10 days.

Day 1 – 4 – 25% new food and 75% old food

Day 5 – 7 – 50% new food and 50% old food

Day 8 – 10 – 75% new food and 25% old food

This method helps your pet’s system adjust to the new food and helps to avoid any gastrointestinal upset.

We understand that there is so much information out there about what is right and what is wrong to feed your pet and that sometimes it can be very difficult to know that you are doing the right thing.  We are here to help you make an informed decision and ultimately help you decided on a diet that is balanced and nutritious for your cat or dog.  If you have any questions about the above information or would like additional information, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us, we would be more than happy to help!

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2019-07-10T18:36:11+00:00