Author: Greg Larson
As a concerned pet owner you’ve likely heard about the FDA issuing a warning statement about grain-free dog food and Dilated Cardiomyopathy or (DCM). Let’s dive deeper into the announcement to see what is exactly going on to uncover some gaps in the current media coverage of the announcement.
First off, what is DCM? It is a condition where the heart is enlarged and cannot pump blood effectively. This of course isn’t good for the dog, and affected dogs show symptoms of lethargy, shortness of breath, or leg swelling, among others. DCM is one of several diseases that affect the heart muscle, and is fairly common, especially among certain breeds.
The FDA’s Current Stance
The FDA’s announcement related some cases of DCM to a few common ingredients found in grain-free foods “containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes as main ingredients,” which are notably not found in all grain-free diets and the most recent FDA announcement itself specifically states “It’s important to note that the FDA doesn’t yet know how certain diets may be associated with DCM in some dogs.”
While I understand the FDA’s obligation to be transparent with the pet-owning public, I feel the reaction of panic is completely misguided for multiple reasons.
- The FDA admits more study is needed and that the “The underlying cause of DCM is unknown, but is thought to have a genetic component.”
- Much more study is needed to prove causation instead of correlation – meaning the grain-free diet is not definitively a cause of DCM.
- Many factors go into DCM diagnoses, including taurine deficiency, breed, and possibly other unknown issues (here’s a lengthy article about taurine in the diet)
- It’s known to be genetically inherited among several breeds including Boxer, Dobermann, Great Dane, Irish Wolfhound and St. Bernard.
DCM is certainly a serious disease and I adamantly support rigorous scientific study that will help identify risk factors and possible preventions for DCM. However, It’s important for the media and the pet community to take a step back and really read what the FDA announcement is saying about the grain-free and DCM connection. With the current evidence we have from the FDA’s investigation- there is NOT a direct connection at this juncture, and the study is ongoing. The FDA’s content admits the cause of DCM is unknown, and there are multiple factors working together that are difficult to clarify and quantify.
Why It is Important to Gather Facts Before Reacting
While the FDA NEVER said that grain-free diets cause heart canine heart disease, unfortunately, that’s the position that many news stories took. And, as a result, many pet parents are reacting and pulling their pets off of safe, grain-free food products that help pets who suffer from grain intolerances to live full and healthy lives.
It can be hard in our Instagram and mobile-based culture to only see what’s on the surface. For this issue I encourage dog owners to look deeper to see the evidence and the complexity of the issue and stay updated with the ongoing FDA investigation.