Vet Connect: Current Diet-related Heart Issues


The FDA has been investigating reports of heart disease (dilated cardiomyopathy) associated with certain dog foods since July 2018. Many of these pet foods have been labeled as “grain free,” and the reports have included breeds of dogs not previously known to have a genetic predisposition to the disease. Some examples of reported breeds include Golden Retrievers, Labs, Whippets, Shih Tzu, Bulldog, Min Schnauzers, etc. Most of these grain free diets contain high proportions of peas, lentils, other legume seeds, and/or potatoes in various forms as the main ingredients, listed before the vitamins and minerals. Another common factor can be “exotic” protein sources such as kangaroo, alligator, bison, etc.

Based on the data evaluated so far, the FDA believes the association between diet and dilated cardiomyopathy is complex and may involve multiple factors. is is not considered just a “grain-free” issue, but instead foods that are “boutique” brands, exotic ingredients, and sometimes grain. Possible causes include: toxins; nutrient-nutrient interactions; deciencies in other minerals such as choline, copper, l-carnitine, magnesium, thiamine, vit E, and selenium; altered/reduced bioavailability; and gut microbiota. The concern is not just dilated cardiomyopathy, but also exacerbation of other heart diseases such as valvular diseases. These groups are considered the non-taurine decient groups and are much more common than the historically-proven taurine decient problems found more rarely, but can be seen in Golden Retrievers, Newfoundlands, American Cocker Spaniels, Irish Wolf Hounds, Saint Bernards, and English Setters.

There are several good resources available for review, such as, which oers answers to frequently asked questions, various PDFs and published documents, and current recommendations. Other good sites are and

Early warning signs of heart disease include a history of mild exercise intolerance or episodes of “passing out,” increased respiratory rate (>30 at home) or eort, inappropriate/unintended weight loss, and sometimes the thought of “must be getting older.” Physical exam findings include arrhythmias, gallop sounds, soft murmurs, and abnormal pulse or decits. If these symptoms are noted, your veterinarian may recommend taurine level measurement (depending on the breed of your pet) and/or an echocardiogram. An echo is always highly suggested prior to implementing any cardiac medications.

The current diet recommendation collaborated from many nutritional and cardiac specialists is to “feed a diet from well-established companies/manufacturer with strong nutritional expertise and rigorous quality control measures.” (WSAVA, , Freeman L.) the U.S. brands known to satisfy these criteria include most formulas of Purina, Hill’s Science Diet, Royal Canin, and Eukanuba. You can research the food you currently feed by contacting the company and asking: (1) Is there at least one full-time board-certied nutritionist; (2) whether they research and publish their data; (3) whether they own their own plants; and (4) whether do they practice rigorous quality control. Quality control measures include on-site supplier audits; rigorous specications for ingredients and ingredient testing; grains tested for aatoxin; certications: GFSI, HACCP, AFIA; manufactured lots tested for bacteria; and nutrient analysis of the nal product. The food also needs to have a nutritional adequacy statement (complete and balanced), formulation and feeding trials, state the intended life stages, and does not make false claims.

If it is absolutely determined a “homemade” diet is necessary, it should be formulated by a board certied-veterinary nutritionist. The recipe would then need to be strictly adhered to.

Make sure you know the specic foods (including treats) your pets consume when you visit your veterinarian. is can help them evaluate and provide nutritional recommendations ideal for your individual pet.


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