HousePaws is providing this update reflecting our response to the latest information being circulated in the media about grain-free diets/foods.
With the newest update released by the FDA many people are calling asking for our advice. Here are a few articles as well as a compilation of our vet’s opinion on the matter of grain-free dog foods and if there is a correlation with DCM. Read these articles thoroughly before you make your own opinion (please don’t just read the headlines). We will add other vet’s opinions as they roll in so please check back !
We checked in with our HousePaws doctors, and here’s what some had to say:
“The research has not indicated a definitive correlation between grain free diets and dilated cardiomyopathy. I believe if a pet is on a good quality diet with a decent protein source (meat as the first ingredient) then there is a lower risk of a taurine decificency being present that could in turn contribute to DCM. There are certain diets that lack an adequate protein source (eg. substitute lentils, quinoa, etc) and these are more likely to be unbalanced. I am still a believer that grains (in appropriate amounts) can contribute to a well balanced diet and unless an animal truly has a grain allergy we do not need to eliminate them from the diet. I think more research is required to confirm the true link between diet and DCM. I have tested a few animals for taurine levels and they have all been normal.
It is also important to note that in the recent article posted by CNN it states that “of the 77 million dogs in the U.S., 0.5% to 1% have DCM, and of those dogs with DCM, fewer than 0.1% are speculated to have DCM related to diet.”
“I haven’t seen the research article this came from. I wish it would be made available so we could review it. It seems to me they just documented what brands pets with DCM were eating and assumed there may be a connection. Grain free is the most common food fed now so this wouldn’t be a good way to look at things IF this is what they did. I cant find the research so I dont know- its very speculative IMHO. A few years ago a similar article came out suggesting raised dishes caused bloat because the in the survey they gave to bloat patients most had raised bowls ( which was and is the trend).
Other things that concern me : These numbers the numbers are small – we have a lot of patients and haven’t seen an increase in DCM cases despite many clients feeding grain free diets. The FDA is still saying they aren’t sure what the link is if there is a link , now they aren’t even mentioning taurine ( every taurine test i have done on dogs on grain free diets has been normal). So im not sure what to make of these vague reports yet. The articles clearly say they don’t even know if diet is a contributing factor.
I feed my dogs a rotation of Acana/ Orijen/ Fromm ( on the list and I wont be changing their food) , human food, and some Stella and chewys raw as a topper or a treat. If the pet is used to a variety- or you can integrate variety – I maintain variety is the spice of life so if your pet doesn’t have a dietary issue why not mix it up and rotate foods. My pets eat some human food. Some grain free. Some raw etc. Even if you only home cook I believe they shouldn’t eat the same ingredients all the time – we would be deficient in something if we did that. “
“I recommend pets be on a good diet. If there are no allergies, I do not recommend a grain free diet and do discuss the studies but tell owners that they still just don’t know. If dogs have an allergy or do better on a grain free diet, I discuss the studies, and again, the fact that they still don’t know. “
“My 2 cents worth:If you read carefully nothing is definitive in these studies. I feel the media will put a twist on a story and make it sound more factual then it actually is. If you read the article it’s not conclusive that these diets are causing dcm. It all seems speculative at this time. I’m not sure what the hype is about grain-free diets. I feel that the general public turns to the grain-free diets because they’re told to and they actually don’t give it a thought as to why they’re doing it. I still don’t understand why grains are ‘bad’ unless there is an obvious underlying intolerance or allergy to that grain.
I think that rotating through 2-3 foods that your pet enjoys and does well with can create a well-rounded diet. Variety truly is the spice of life “
“ I agree with all of the above. Nothing is certain at the moment and no one is claiming that these diets cause heart disease in all dogs. My interpretation of the FDA statement as well as December 2018 JAVMA expert commentary (attached): I very much doubt that all BEG diets cause heart disease in all dogs, but there are case reports and anecdotal data that seem to indicate that some very small subset of BEG diets may contribute to the pathogenesis of DCM in some very small subset of dogs, likely due to a combination of still unknown factors in both the specific diets and the specific dogs. I suspect the vast, vast, vast majority of dogs currently eating BEG diets will be absolutely fine, but a small number may be negatively affected in the future. If a dog feels good, is active, maintains a healthy weight, doesn’t itch, and likes his food on a high quality, non-grain-free, conventional diet (or a rotation of several of these diets) made by a reputable manufacturer, then that (along with a reasonable number of a variety of treats) is an excellent diet for that dog, and that’s my preferred starting point for most dogs. If a dog truly has a grain sensitivity, or has been shown to only do well on a specific BEG diet, or for whatever other reason can’t tolerate a conventional diet, then I wouldn’t rush to change that dog’s diet over a still speculative and unproven risk of heart disease. “
“I recently switched my own dog to a Royal Canin diet from Merrick grain free. He doesn’t need grain free/BEG and with the information out now, even with a low incidence I personally feel better placing him on a conventional diet from a large company. When clients ask me about this I stress that we still are not sure what might be the problem and why some dogs(and cats) who may not normally develop DCM are developing it, but that they may wish to either add some other types of food, perhaps consider a food without legumes as a major ingredient or switch to a conventional diet from a large company if they are concerned. I also stress that if the dog is doing well on its current diet, the likelihood of a problem is quite small.”
“I have never been a fan of grain free diets as usually there isn’t actually an underlying true sensitivity or allergy to grain. A lot of people who initially thought they helped later said it got bad again so likely changed the food when some other environmental hanger was also happening or placebo effect. I agree we have no idea what the cause is, taurine was likely initially thought to be the cause as it was the case with cats in the 80s but I’m sure it’s overall more complicated than that. While the true number of *proven* cases is incredibly small, I’m sure the actual number is I’ve relatively small considering how many are in these diets, but it’s still a risk that there really isn’t a need to take I recommend against grain free for these reasons however I know ultimately many won’t listen and I don’t worry too much because again (as far as we know) the risk appears to be relatively small overall.
My preferred brands are Royal cabin, Purina proplan or Purina one, iams, eukanuba, and science diet. Ultimately any that has done a feeding trial on the aafco label (I even found one Costco brand who did it!).”
Our original post on this subject:
Due to the hysteria revolving around the topic of Taurine deficiency due to grain free, boutique, or homemade food, we went to an expert to get you some answers. W. Jean Dodds, DVM, a prominent veterinary immunologist and researcher for her input on the grain free situation. Contrary to what is being publicized, the FDA has not said that grain free food cause heart disease nor has any food recall happened in regards to Taurine issues which would be required if there was a direct link that has been established to these foods and heart disease. We know that you are concerned and want you to be educated. Dr. Dodds was kind enough to share the following slide show and most recent research compiled with her thoughts on the topic.
Please take the time to read the information in the links below and if you have any questions, please let us know!
CFDC Health Seminar NUTRITION April 2019
Blog Post 149 FDA DCM Updates 20190219 FINAL
Dr. Jean Dodds’ Pet Health Resource Blog _ Dodds Responds to FDA Statement on Canine Heart.._
If you have any questions or comments after reviewing this information feel free to email us back at Community@HousePawsMobileVet.com