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Are Grain-Free Diets Causing Heart Disease?

If you feed your pet a grain-free diet, home-cooked meals or food with exotic and atypical ingredients, it may be time to reconsider. Veterinary cardiologists, nutritionists, and the FDA are currently investigating a possible link between these types of diets and the development of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs. DCM can result in abnormal heart rhythms, congestive heart failure, and even sudden death.

Initially, it was thought that those diets might be responsible for a deficiency in taurine, an amino acid essential to heart health in pets. However, most of the pets who have been diagnosed with DCM are not lacking taurine—but all of them were being fed grain-free diets with alternative fillers, such as:

  • lentils or barley
  • home-cooked foods
  • vegetarian meals
  • kibble made with exotic proteins (kangaroo, duck, bison, etc.)

This is true of both DCM-prone breeds and dogs that are not genetically inclined to develop the disease. At this point, researchers are unsure what exactly is causing the uptick in DCM cases, but feel it may be diet-related.

In light of these recent findings, we suggest avoiding a grain-free, exotic protein, vegetarian or completely home-prepared diet. Instead, choose a commercial pet food made by a well-established manufacturer that contains common ingredients, including grains. There is no nutritional evidence that a grain-free diet is better for pets, and contrary to popular belief, grain allergies are very uncommon in dogs and cats.

If you aren’t sure which diet is right for your pet or think your pet may be showing signs of heart problems, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. You can also click here to read more about this issue.