Dog heart disease may be linked to grain-free food, FDA says

Dog owners, take note: The Food and Drug Administration is examining whether certain dog foods may be linked to deadly heart disease.

The FDA is investigating a possible link between reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs and certain pet foods they ate that contain peas, lentils, other legume seeds or potatoes as main ingredients. DCM causes the chambers of the dog’s heart to enlarge and often results in congestive heart failure.

Certain large breed dogs are more likely to develop DCM, such as Great Danes, Newfoundlands, Irish Wolfhounds, Saint Bernards and Doberman Pinschers.


However, some recently reported cases have affected breeds that are not usually predisposed, and early reports indicated that these dogs consistently ate foods containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds or potatoes as primary ingredients for months to years leading up to diagnosis.


The FDA has not implicated particular brands, but it has indicated that the ingredients are a more important factor than the brands.

“The FDA is investigating the potential link between DCM and these foods,” Martine Hartogensis, deputy director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine’s Office of Surveillance and Compliance, said in a statement. “We encourage pet owners and veterinarians to report DCM cases in dogs who are not predisposed to the disease.”

Cases of DCM that are suspected to be linked to the dog’s diet can be reported through the Department of Health and Human Services’ electronic Safety Reporting Portal or by calling your state’s FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinators.

Symptoms of DCM include lethargy, breathing problems and sometimes a cough. While the FDA conducts their investigation into a potential link between diet and DCM, the agency recommended that any changes in your pet’s diet — especially for those dogs that have confirmed cases of DCM — be made with the guidance of a licensed veterinary professional.


Researchers are not yet sure why these diets may be linked to DCM, but it could be related to a deficiency in taurine, an amino acid that is essential for carnivores, according to Texas A & M University Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital.


“Taurine deficiency is well-documented as potentially leading to DCM,” the FDA said in a statement.

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