Recent research from Tufts University, UC Davis, and others has shown a possible correlation between certain so-called “BEG” diets (Boutique, Exotic Ingredient, Grain-Free) and Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM).

If you feed your pet a grain-free diet, home-cooked meals or food with exotic and atypical ingredients, you may want to reconsider. Veterinary cardiologists, nutritionists and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are currently investigating a possible link between those types of diets and the development of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs and recently the FDA named 16 diets that may be linked to canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)

DCM is a condition in which the heart becomes weak and enlarged. Early symptoms include fatigue or respiratory signs (such as coughing). Often there are no symptoms at all. However, dogs may have symptoms as severe as trouble breathing, lethargy, persistent coughing, or collapse. An echocardiogram (heart ultrasound) is the only definitive way to diagnose DCM.

What We Know

Diets that show the highest correlation with DCM are those from smaller, “boutique” companies with either exotic/non-traditional ingredients and/or no grains. Specifically, diets with peas, legumes (lentils, beans, chickpeas, etc.), and sweet and white potatoes within the first 5 ingredients appear to pose the greatest risk. There may be a problem with taurine, an amino acid important for heart strength, although a specific scientific cause and effect has not yet been proven. Testing for taurine may or may not prove useful.

The FDA recently released a report listing 16 commercial dog food brands most frequently associated with diet-related DCM: Acana, Zignature, Taste of the Wild, 4Health, Earthborn Holistic, Blue Buffalo, Nature’s Domain, Fromm, Merrick, California Natural, Natural Balance, Orijen, Nature’s Variety, Nutrisource, Nutro, Rachel Ray Nutrish.

What Should I Do?

As a safety precaution, Tufts University and UC Davis have advised to feed dogs a traditional, non-grain free diet without peas, legumes, or any kind of potatoes in the first 5 ingredients. They have also recommended feeding diets from the top manufacturers that do the most research on their products: Purina, Hill’s, Royal Canin, and Eukanuba. Your Glendale Animal Hospital veterinarian can also help in constructing a diet best suited for your pet.

What if My Dog Has Allergies/Special Needs?

We highly encourage discussing specific dietary requirements with your Glendale Animal Hospital veterinarian. Your veterinarian may also be able to refer you to a board-certified veterinary nutritionist as well. If you have questions or concerns regarding your pet’s diet and their heart heath, please contact us at 630.297.4709 to schedule an appointment.