Grain Free Diets & Heart Disease
Studies have shown a connection between feeding grain-free diets or diets high in legumes and pulses (e.g. peas, lentils, etc) and the development of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs.
The current theory is that the problem is not a lack of grains, but rather the addition of peas, lentils and other legumes in place of the grain. Legumes contain high amounts of protein. When producing a diet with a balanced level of protein the amount of animal protein is reduced to prevent an excess of total protein. This reduced level of animal protein may result in the deficiency of certain amino acids needed for heart health.
Grains are not a common allergen in dogs, so there is rarely a medical reason for feeding grain-free.
Raw diets can also be implicated in this disease due to unbalanced nutritional profiles and cause an increased risk for bacterial infections for pets and owners and are not recommended.
What is DCM?
Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a disease of the heart muscle where the muscle becomes weakened and unable to contract or pump blood efficiently. This can lead to increased anesthetic risk, heart failure, and even death.
Signs of DCM depend on the stage of disease and the region of the heart that is affected, but can include difficulty breathing, weakness, increased heart rate, fainting, coughing, pale gums, loss of appetite, and fluid accumulation in the chest or abdomen. In rare cases sudden death can occur prior to the development of any other signs or symptoms.
How DCM is diagnosed depends on the stage of disease, but could include a physical exam and listening to the heart and lungs, chest radiographs to measure heart size or an ECG to assess the rate and rhythm of the heart.
Untreated, this can lead to heart failure. DCM can be inherited in certain breeds, but recently there have been studies linking DCM with nutritional deficiencies often associated with feeding diets that are labeled grain-free or that are high in pulses, legumes and peas.
What you can do:
- Check your food label. Is it labeled grain free?
- Are pulses and legumes in the first 10 ingredients?
- Ask your veterinarian or veterinary health team to help you decide!
- Feeding diets with long track records
- feeding diets that have gone through feeding trials and veterinary oversight.
Recommended Food Brands:
- Purina / Pro Plan
- Royal Canin
- Hills / Science Diet
Please call to speak to one of our trained Veterinarians or Veterinary Technologists for more information.