Avoid grain free pet food, a balanced diet is recommended

Avoid grain free pet food, a balanced diet is recommended

Recently there has been an increase in a type of heart disease in dogs called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). Affected dogs may have symptoms like coughing, lethargy, exercise intolerance, fainting or no sign other than sudden death. Because this is a condition that requires specialized veterinary care, many of these pets are not diagnosed or treated.

Over the last few years, Veterinary Cardiologists around the world have started to notice an increase in DCM in breeds that are not prone to the disease. They began to compare cases and found that the one consistent finding was a history of feeding the pets what is termed “Boutique, Exotic, Grain Free” (BEG) diets.

These BEG diet foods have recently become popular due to human diet preferences (ie. low carbohydrates), hype and often misleading marketing by pet store employees and the internet. In June of 2019, the FDA put out an overview of the investigation (Google search: FDA dilated cardiomyopathy).

The science behind the cause of the heart disease likely has multiple factors. The affected diets appear to be ones that have legumes as a main ingredient and most labeled as “grain free”.

There may be a connection with the amino acid taurine, either low levels in the diet or decreased absorption but the research is ongoing. A list of the brands that were most implicated is also in the FDA report but the top three were Arcana, Zignature and Taste of the Wild.

Nutrition should be based on the pet’s life stage, body condition, and concurrent medical conditions. Almost NO dog or cat “needs” grain free food unless prescribed so ask you veterinarian. Don’t be swayed by non-fact-based dieting fads!

My general recommendation is to feed your pet a balanced diet for the life stage of your pet and made by a company that has done AAFCO feeding trials and has a Board-Certified Veterinary Nutritionist on staff.

Dr. Lauren Smith is a veterinarian at Hart Road Animal Hospital located at 16400 SW Hart Rd, Beaverton. Contact her at 503-591-5282 or visit www.hartroadanimalhospital.com

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