Thursday, July 26, 2018

Are You Killing Your Dog with "Grain Free"?

The FDA is warning dog owners that "grain free" dog food may cause heart disease. From The New York Times:

Bison and chickpeas. Wild boar and sweet potatoes. Kangaroo and lentils.

These are just a few of the spectacularly popular selections of “grain-free” dog food that have deluged the pet food market in recent years. Dense with exotic proteins, teeming with legumes favored by health-conscious humans, they are promoted as delicious as well as nutritious — better for gluten-sensitive bellies, closer to the ancestral, protein-rich diets of the Yorkie’s savage forebears.

But earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it is investigating a link between these diets and a common type of canine heart disease.

The condition is dilated cardiomyopathy, or D.C.M., in which the heart weakens and becomes enlarged. Symptoms include fatigue, difficulty breathing, coughing and fainting. Some dogs can abruptly go into heart failure.

D.C.M. is typically seen in large breed dogs that have a genetic predisposition for it, like Doberman pinschers, Irish wolfhounds, boxers and Great Danes. But CVCA, a practice of 19 veterinary cardiologists in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area, alerted the F.D.A. that it has been seeing D.C.M. among other breeds, including golden retrievers, doodle mixes, Labrador retrievers and Shih Tzus.

The common factor was a diet heavy in peas, lentils, chickpeas and potatoes — carbohydrates typically intended to replace grains.

Other veterinary cardiologists have also noticed the phenomenon. “The first clue for us was when we saw a household with two unrelated miniature Schnauzers with D.C.M.,” said Darcy Adin, a veterinary cardiologist who teaches at North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “They were both eating the same boutique, exotic protein, grain-free diet.”

As I have noted in the past, there is nothing wrong with processed corn and other grains in dog food:

Most of the working gun dogs, bear hounds, working terriers, pig dogs, and racing greyhounds in this country are fed dog food that has corn in it as well.

In fact almost all working dogs eat bagged kibble, and most of that kibble has corn in it.

For folks new to this blog here's what to look for in a dog food. A list of links at the bottom of this post will give you more information. Bottom line: feed what you want, but spending more money will NOT give you better dog food.


LRM said...

My dogs reject foods that contain legumes. They love potatoes. I always assumed it was because of their heritage. ;-)

Bonnie McLarty said...

The correlation is clear, the causation less so. Hard to tell from this whether the inadequate taurine is from something actually to do with the peas/legumes affecting absorption or if it's a result of using pea/legume protein amounts as a substitute for meat/egg proteins and ending up with inadequate taurine as a result. Grains don't have taurine either, but they don't affect protein percentages in dog food the way legumes would. Probably some Blue Buffalo guy thinking that protein is all that matters, rather than the actual specific amino acids...

tuffy said...

yes, i agree with Bonnie-
grains don't have taurine either and unfermented legumes have toxic principles for carnivores and many omnivores. there is a ton of soy in many dog foods. did they compare peas and lentils to that? grains have their own issues causing inflammation.
most grains eaten by wild canids and felids are obtained by ingesting prefermented, pre-digested intestinal contents of the prey they are eating.
did the researchers compare the rate of DCM, a common heart disease, in dogs eating no grain, vs dogs eating grains? how large is the sample size or is this ''survey research''? i saw DCM all the time in private practice long before grain-free foods came out. still do--at same rates come to think of it.
also, who funded this study?