The Grain Free Risk

The Grain Free Risk


Information Overload

There has been a great deal of reporting, both in the main stream news media as well as on the internet, about the correlation between grain free diets and heart disease in dogs and cats.  As your veterinary team we want to provide you with the most accurate and current information about grain free diet concerns, as there is a lot of misinformation online.

The FDA was Flooded with Cases

In July 2018 the FDA made an announcement that they had begun investigating what appeared to be a flood of reported cases in dogs and cats diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy who were consuming grain free diets. The FDA investigation looked into the ingredients and components of these diets, and the evidence showed that more than 90% of these cases consisted of diets that were grain-free and 93% had peas, lentils, or potatoes as the main ingredient for carbohydrate supplementation. Many of these cases included dog and cat breeds not formerly known to have a genetic predisposition to dilated cardiomyopathy.

What is Dilated Cardiomyopathy and How Serious is it?

Dilated cardiomyopathy is a cardiac disease in which the heart muscles become weakened and stretched decreasing the heart’s ability to pump blood efficiently. As the disease progresses it leads to enlargement of the heart chambers, probable valve leakage, and eventually accumulation of fluid in the lungs known as congestive heart failure. Dogs and cats with a milder case of the disease may not show any clinical signs, whereas in other cases the condition can be life-threatening. Symptoms include, cough, exercise intolerance, labored breathing, potbellied appearance, fainting, lethargy, and loss of appetite.

What’s Taurine got to do with it?

Early on in the investigation there had been great concern that lack of the amino acid taurine in grain free pet foods had played a role in this uptick of dilated cardiomyopathy. However with more recent studies, the FDA has discovered that many of the affected dogs and cats have normal taurine levels and it is unclear and doubtful that taurine deficiency is a cause of dilated cardiomyopathy. Therefore providing taurine supplementation is unlikely beneficial in preventing dilated cardiomyopathy, unless the dog or cat has a taurine deficiency. To date other theories suggest that essential amino acids may not be absorbed sufficiently without dietary grain. The FDA is still performing ongoing research to help provide an answer.

What do I feed my pet?

Our hospital medical director Dr. Silke Bogart has recommended that healthy dogs and cats should be fed a formula that contains grains, such as wheat, corn and rice. However, if you have a pet with special dietary needs related to a medical condition such as allergies, it is best to consult your veterinarian to ensure that your pet is consuming a food that meets proper dietary requirements.  The good news is that studies have shown the heart can recover if the pet is switched back to a grain based food.

16 Most Reported Dog Food Brands

Below are the 16 brands identified by the FDA for having the most reported cases.

  • Acana
  • Zignature
  • Taste of the Wild
  • 4Health
  • Earthborn Holistic
  • Blue Buffalo
  • Nature’s Domain
  • Fromm
  • Merrick
  • California Natural
  • Natural Balance
  • Orijen
  • Nature’s Variety
  • NutriSource
  • Nutro
  • Rachael Ray Nutrish

For more information click the link below 


Author: Elizabeth DiIorio-Bogner
Reviewed By: Dr. Silke Bogart DVM

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