This ‘Grain-Free’ Pet Food May Be Linked to Heart Disease in Dogs

If you feed your dog a commercial “grain-free” diet, be aware of a scary new warning issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA says it’s been receiving “highly unusual” reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) – a condition that enlarges the heart – in dogs whose breeds aren’t genetically prone to this potentially deadly disease.

All of these dogs ate commercial pet food with the main ingredients of peas, lentils, other legume seeds and potatoes. These types of pet food are often labeled as “grain free.”

DCM typically affects large dog breeds, like Great Danes, Boxers, Newfoundlands and Doberman Pinschers. With the exception of American and English Cocker Spaniels, it is less common in medium and small dogs. Yet the FDA has received reports about all sizes of dogs and mixed breeds showing signs of the disease, including a Bulldog, Shih Tzu and Miniature Schnauzers.

Some of these dogs had typical symptoms of heart disease, such as low energy, coughing, breathing difficulties and even collapsing on occasion. Three Golden Retrievers and one Labrador Retriever had abnormally low blood levels of the amino acid taurine, a nutritional deficiency that can lead to DCM. The FDA believes a lack of taurine in the pet food could be the reason for so many reports of DCM. The Lab is recovering, thanks to taurine supplementation and a change in diet.

DCM causes a dog’s heart and its chambers to become dilated, making it more difficult for the heart to pump. This can cause the heart’s valves to leak and fill the dog’s chest and abdomen with fluids, which can lead to congestive heart failure and possible death. Fortunately, if it’s caught early enough, DCM can be treated with heart medication and a change of diet.

The FDA said its Center for Veterinary Medicine and the Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network, a collaboration of government and veterinary diagnostic laboratories, is working with pet food manufacturers to determine the connection between the food and DCM in dogs.

Although the FDA hasn’t yet named any brands of pet food that might be connected to these highly unusual cases of DCM, it’s interesting that on July 12, the day it published the warning, a spokesperson for J.M. Smucker Co. told Bloomberg its in-house veterinarian is working with the FDA on this research. A spokesperson for Nestle SA’s pet-food brand Purina told Bloomberg the company had not yet been contacted by the FDA, but added that most Purina products don’t include legumes and potatoes as their main ingredients.

This is the second case of alarming commercial pet food news this year. In January, traces of the euthanasia drug pentobarbital were found in nine out of 15 cans (that’s a scary 60 percent) of Gravy Train canned dog food — which is manufactured by the J.M. Smucker Co. The company subsequently voluntarily withdrew 31 varieties of canned pet food from store shelves nationwide. Along with Gravy Train, the brands included Kibbles ‘N Bits, Skippy and Ol’ Roy.

The FDA is asking pet owners and veterinary professionals to report any suspected diet-related cases of DCM in dogs. You can file a report online by using the FDA’s Safety Reporting Portal, or call your state’s FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator. Pet owners can also submit online pet food complaints to the FDA.

To help make sure the food you’re feeding your pet is safe, it’s a good idea to check the most recent Clean Label Project Pet Food Study Results.

TAKE ACTION

Although the FDA hasn’t yet named the brands of pet food eaten by the dogs with DCM, it’s telling that the agency is working with the J.M. Smucker Co. to research the connection. Please join more than 112,000 people who have signed this Care2 petition asking the company to pledge to only produce dog food that meets the same legal health standard as human food.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

86 comments

hELEN h
hELEN h5 days ago

tyfs

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Jan S
Past Member 1 months ago

Thank you

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hELEN hEARFIELD
hELEN h1 months ago

tyfs

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Peggy B
Peggy B1 months ago

TY

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Renata B
Renata B1 months ago

Our dog has a diet of vegetarian (there are organic eggs) wet food and vegan dry food. We would never dream to give him supermarket food: it contains the slurry of the slaughterhouses.

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Daria D
Daria Dammit1 months ago

The FDA thinks it's the PET FOOD that's causing the heart problems?? I think it may be the RAW animal protein diets. When we used to make and COOK Baby's animal protein, we made damn sure to remove alot of the fat. She lived to 17 yrs.

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Leanne K
Leanne K2 months ago

Supermarket pet food is equivalent to cocopops but reputable pet food is outrageously expensive. Very few pet owners can afford those prices. But if you are going to make and sell pet food, it ought to be safe and beneficial to the animal

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Leanne K
Leanne K2 months ago

Going back a step, was the pet food with the euthanasia drug because they were using animals that had been euthanised? That raises so many questions, including moral ones. A minefield filled with dilemmas. I dont see any other possible explanation.

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Pat P
Pat P2 months ago

Most of the inferior products made by large companies have NO resemblance to anything that meets the criteria for "pet food".
The FDA and AAFCO know this and that this multi-billion dollar industry is not meeting the Federal definition and the requirements necessary to fulfill it--but doesn't care and allows them to use rendered ingredients with toxic diseased corpses (in lieu of official slaughtered animals); dead cats/dogs euthanized with pentobarbital (which has been found in various "foods"); 4-D animals. They have been permitting this illegal garbage for at least 20 years.

Although there are some good companies that make real food (especially some of the smaller ones providing raw frozen products). the FDA is making it more difficult for them to survive in order to lessen the competition for the big corporations such as MARS and Purina. etc. It is more expensive to make real pet food with genuine good quality ingredients. The large companies want to spend as little as possible to make their cheap products--while including the wastes left over from their subsidiaries.

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Danii P
Past Member 2 months ago

Thank you

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