University of California, Davis, veterinarians led a team that has found a link between some popular grain-free, legume-rich diets and a type of nutritional deficiency and canine heart disease known as taurine-deficient dilated cardiomyopathy. The study was recently published in the journal PLOS ONE
Researchers found dogs eating some of these boutique diets are not known to have enough taurine, an amino acid important for heart health. Taurine deficiency has been known for many years to lead to dilated cardiomyopathy, or DCM, a heart muscle disorder that can lead to congestive heart failure and death
"Given this recent surge in cases, we need to pay close attention to what we are feeding dogs, ”said lead author Joshua Stern, a veterinary cardiologist and geneticist at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. "Choosing a well-researched dog food that has a healthy nutrient profile backed by expert formulation and research is of paramount importance."
Stern said while some of them are more genetically prone to a traditional form of DCM, the disease is now showing up unexpectedly in other breeds, such as the golden retriever. The common link unifying these cases is their diets. He started noticing the trend two years ago and is now treating many dogs with nutritionally mediated DCM that were all eating quite similar diets. Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an alert to pet owners and veterinarians about the potential association between the diets and DCM. The FDA continues to research this issue in an effort to identify the exact dietary factor causing the problem.
Studying at golden retrievers
Sterns research involved 24 golden retrievers with dilated cardiomyopathy and documented taurine deficiency, representing the largest collection of cases with this condition that has been published. Twenty-three of the 24 dogs diagnosed with DCM had also been fed that were either grain-free, legume-rich or combination.
As a result, all but one is improved. Nine of 1
“This study helped us confirm that this condition is treatable and avoidable, something that traditional DCM or genetic origins is not, ”said Stern.
Instead, consulting with your dogs can develop DCM from nutritional origins and not be deficient. Taurine supplements can also treat the problem and lead to a delay of an important diagnosis
DCM cases involve different dog food brands and formulas
Stern urged pet owners to take a second look at their dog's diet. Cases of DCM have been reported in dogs eating multiple different brands and formulas of food.
The problem may not be that the diet is "grain-free" or "legume-heavy" but that ingredients are interacting to reduce availability or taurine. or that other nutrients are missing or interacting in the formulation.
For example, while a lot of pet owners may not want to see "byproducts" in their dog's food, often the byproducts contain organ meat like heart and kidney, which are good sources of taurine. “Staying away from some of the most common marketing gimmicks may help to protect your pet.”
For more information on selecting foods for your pet, Stern recommends that clients consider using the recommendations set by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association for selection a healthy dog food
Click here for more information on dilated cardiomyopathy and dog food
Co-authors of the study include Andrea Fascetti and Jennifer Larsen, veterinary nutritionists with the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, and Joanna Kaplan , a veterinary cardiology resident at the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.