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  • Writer's pictureHalsey

Year in Review: Pet food - Diet Related Cardiomyopathy

This summer a cardiologist at UC Davis started to notice that an increasing number of Golden Retrievers were being diagnosed with Dilated Cardiomyopathy, a type of heart disease. A correlation was noted between the heart disease and being fed a grain free diet, and veterinarians soon realized that it was not limited to Golden Retrievers. Much investigation is being done, and we don't know everything yet, but here is how things stand now:

There are 3 reasons for a dog to get dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM): 1) genetics, 2) diet related to taurine deficiency, 3) diet related to unknown factors .

There are 3 characteristics of diets that seem to be involved:

1) Boutique company

2) Exotic ingredients

3) Grain free

Together, these are being referred to as "BEG" diets. Currently being investigated is if it has to do with the grain substitutes (lentils, chickpeas, etc), the exotic meats (alligator, boar, etc) or some other quality control factor.

Has your dog been eating one of these "BEG" diets? It may be ok, but it is worth a discussion with your veterinarian. It is unlikely that most dogs eating these diets will develop DCM, but the connection to the disease is not well understood at this time. There is not one perfect diet for all pets, which is why there are so many on the market. Some guidelines to consider when choosing a diet:

- If your pet does not need to be on a grain free diet, then consider feeding a diet that is not grain free

- Has the diet been on the market for 10 years or more? Essentially, have dogs been on this diet for more than one generation?

- Does my pet need exotic ingredients for a specific reason?

This problem is limited to dogs. There is a screening blood test that can be sent to the lab to check the level of heart muscle enzymes. This is what I am currently recommending as part of routine annual screening as it is much less expensive and more practical than an echocardiogram.

Want to read more? Here are some pages to check out:

- Tufts Nutrition Service Blog, Update November 29, 2018

- FDA Q&A, Updated August 10, 2018

- UC Davis article, July 19, 2018

- UC Davis article, July 23, 2018

Still have questions? Just send me an email.

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