Author: Greg Larson
In this modern era of ‘Fake News’ and biased media, I think it is incredibly important to note that the reaction to the recent FDA announcement about a possible risk between grain-free dog food and the heart disease condition Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a case of jumping to unsubstantiated conclusions. And, while it might too soon to call it entirely “fake”, this reaction is certainly misguided given the current information at hand. I’ve been seeing social media posts, countless articles from other websites and publications jumping to conclusions, and the first thing I want to for everyone to do while reading this article is to take a very deep breath.
The FDA specifically states that this it’s an ongoing study, and there needs to be more done to figure out the correlation/causation link:
Anne Norris, FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine health communications specialist stated; “The FDA is still investigating individual ingredients under the legume, pulse or potato “umbrella. So, I would suggest not taking intuitive leaps beyond what is explicitly stated in our public notice right now… It is still early in the investigation and right now we’re simply notifying the public, practitioners, and manufacturers that we are observing a signal that warrants further study.”
The FDA’s own content points to the causes of DCM as a complex issue. There are multiple inputs that go into such an equation, such as the dog’s levels of the amino acid taurine, their breed, sex, weight, and other factors. DCM is a tricky disease with several interconnected causes.
As is typically the case with media stories that become sensationalized, the grain-free and DCM articles don’t go into the whole story. There’s a significant amount of scientific evidence that points to little or no decreases in taurine levels from certain grain-free foods and a lot of research still must be done to pinpoint the cause of this terrible disease.
For example, a study titled “Diet-associated dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs: what do we know?” from the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, which is a serious science-based journal that dives deeper into certain pet-related issues states:
“Currently, it seems that in addition to those dogs with DCM completely unrelated to diet (eg, breed-specific DCM), there may be 2 groups of dogs with diet-associated DCM: dogs with DCM specifically related to taurine deficiency and dogs with DCM associated with separate, but yet unknown, dietary factors. Identifying the potential dietary factors contributing to DCM in these latter 2 groups may be challenging.”
This points to the complexity of the issue at hand. DCM is a condition with multiple interconnected causes, and scientists aren’t quite able to relate dietary factors to DCM. It is so important to gather the facts and submit any causes of DCM in pets to the FDA so that they can conduct more research into DCM. That said, the FDA’s own report notes that this is a disease without a direct cause: “Canine DCM, a disease of a dog’s heart muscle, can often result in congestive heart failure. The underlying cause of DCM is unknown, but is thought to have a genetic component.”
It is also important to take into consideration, despite media reports of blanketed ‘grain-free food’ being in question, that all grain food is not included in this warning. The FDA warning, specifically, states that vets and dog owners should be alert for signs of DCM in dogs eating foods “containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes as main ingredients.”
If you or a loved one has undergone the terrible experience of your beloved pet being diagnosed with DCM, please be sure to submit the case to the FDA so they can continue to consider all of the potential causes. But at this point, jumping to irrational conclusions from inaccurate news cycles is not helping to rectify the issue at hand.