Grain-Free Dog Food and Dilated Cardiomyopathy: Is There a Link? Is this as serious as the reports claim?

Grain-Free Dog Food and Dilated Cardiomyopathy: Is There a Link? Photo by Lisa Fotios:

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How grain-free dog food is known to be linked with DCM in dogs, and how the issue will not necessarily affect your dog.

Dogs, like humans, eat everything. They need a balanced blend of meats, veggies, and grains in their food for the best health. Yet, many families serve their dogs grain-free diets, noting improved skin, coat, and digestion.

The controversy around grain-free dog food diets began in 2019 when FDA looked into the possible connection between these foods and heart disease in dogs. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reverted to the fundamentals of omnivorous nutrition after discovering a higher risk of cardiovascular disease in dogs fed a grain-free diet.

It is very important that you keep a check on your dog’s food and nutrition to maintain its overall health. Like us humans, different dogs also react to different kinds of diets. So the important thing is to be aware of what you are feeding your fur friend in terms of quantity as well as quality.

What is the truth? How do grain-free meals affect the canine heart? 

What Is the Issue With Grain-Free Food?

As the demand for grain-free food increased among pet owners, veterinarians began to wonder if there might be a correlation between a grain-free diet and DCM (canine-dilated cardiomyopathy).

The majority of science diet options are "grain-free" varieties, and the sick animals have usually been feeding on them for an extended amount of time. The reason could also be toxication if the dogs are given just one kind of diet for prolonged periods of time. 

Lentils, peas, some other legumes, and potatoes make up the bulk of these diets, which also exclude wheat, corn, soy, rice, barley, and other grains. The fact that many diets have come from specialized (or boutique) pet food firms is also noteworthy. Although some semi-moist,  wet food,  or even raw meals, most consisted of dry "kibble-style" dog chow.

On Dec 23, FDA announced that they would not be making further public updates until new findings. However, they continue to encourage vets and researchers to learn more on the subject. 

Diastolic Heart Failure: What Is It?

Dilated cardiomyopathy is characterized by a deterioration of heart muscle, making it more difficult for the heart to pump blood throughout the body in canines. CHF can develop as a result of stress on the heart.

DCM is more common in dogs with a family history of the condition or another heart disorder. Cocker Spaniels can get DCM much like large dog breeds, including Great Danes, Doberman Pinschers, Irish Wolfhounds, Saint Bernards, and Newfoundland.  Small or even medium dogs often have a lower risk of developing DCM (other than Cockers). 

It is a rather uncommon issue and can be cured by taking proper care. Make sure you visit your vet the moment you see any signs. The vets usually prescribe Heartgard for dogs, which is known to be a very effective pet medicine for conditions related to your dog's heart health.


If I've been feeding my dog a grain-free diet, should I be worried about heart disease?

According to a recent report published in the Journal of Veterinary Cardiology, the chances of heart disease with dogs on a grain-free diet disease are slightly higher. However, it depends on genes and the breed as well. It is not as harmful if given in moderation.

What happens when you feed a dog a grain-free diet?

A grain-free diet isn't always best for a dog's health, and some heart issues can develop if the dog doesn't get the grains it needs. When fed a grain-free diet for an extended period of time, dogs may be more likely to develop dilated cardiomyopathy, which can progress to congestive heart failure. 

So, make sure you keep trying different kinds of diets and do not stick to just one for longer periods of time. 

It is also important that you keep a check on your dog's weight, keep a check on their diet, make sure that they are active by playing with interactive dog toys and go for a routine vet checkup. Using proper training and behavior, you can keep your pet healthy and safe from heart disease.

Dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs: is there hope for a reversal?

However, the effects of DCM are usually permanent, and its occurrence is rarely curable. As was mentioned above, however, there is an exception: people who are taurine deficient. There is hope with medical treatment and pet medication, but each animal's prognosis is unique.

The best healthy meal for your dog is one with the correct combination of protein, carbohydrates, fats, and nutrients, grain-free or not. Every dog's diet is unique. Age, exercise level, health conditions, size, and more are used to formulate healthy dog food.

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