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Pets and their owners are spoilt for choice when it comes to pet food options. Although there is a wide array of pet foods to choose from, not all pet foods are created equal. In July of 2018, the U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration) began investigating the possible link between heart disease and certain grain free foods that contain potatoes, lentils, peas or other legumes as the main ingredients.
Although some breeds are genetically predisposed to heart disease, the FDA had been receiving reports of a heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy or DCM in dogs that are not genetically prone to the condition. Canine DCM is a condition where the heart muscle of the dog is affected and eventually leads to congestive heart failure.
Which breeds are at risk?
Giant and large breed dogs like Saint Bernards, Great Danes, Irish Wolfhounds, Newfoundlands, and Doberman Pinschers have a genetic predisposition to DCM. The heart condition is not usually seen in smaller or medium breeds. The FDA had received reports of atypical cases of DCM in breeds like Shih Tzu, Labrador and Golden Retrievers, Bulldog, Miniature Schnauzers, Whippet and mixed breeds.
Which foods are dangerous?
Grain free foods: The diet of these dogs had carbohydrates from potatoes, lentils or peas instead of grains. Blood tests in some dogs that had DCM on grain free diet revealed low levels of an amino acid called taurine which is important for normal functioning of heart muscle. Organ meats and raw meats contain taurine naturally while it is not present in plant based proteins.
Exotic proteins: Veterinarians suggest dog owners to select pet foods that have high-quality ingredients and are made by reputed manufacturers who have nutritional expertise along with quality control systems in place. They also suggest caution with exotic proteins like kangaroo and alligator that have not fully been evaluated as compared to the tried and tested beef and chicken proteins.
Coffee and Chocolates: Dark chocolates contain ‘theobromine’ a substance that can be toxic to your dog, causing vomiting, diarrhea and irregular heart rhythms. If not treated immediately, chocolates could also be fatal. Coffee can lead to palpitations and muscle tremors in your dog because of the high amounts of caffeine.
Signs of heart disease
Early signs of DCM may be hard to detect but you could watch out for these symptoms in your dog:
- Faster breathing rate
- Excessive panting
- Weakness or lethargy
- No interest in exercise
- Reduced exercise tolerance
- fainting episodes
Consulting a vet as soon as you notice any of these symptoms is important. DCM can be reversed by making the required changes in the pet’s diet. Including a mix of high quality, validated proteins and grains is the best way to keep your furry pal healthy.