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Grain-Free Pet Food Diet Guidance

Grain Free Diets

Recent information has given rise to concerns about feeding certain diets that contain unique protein sources and/or are grain free. Initially, it was thought that the problem was limited only to grain free diets. New information is causing nutritionists and cardiologists to suspect not only grain free diets, but boutique diets and diets based on exotic ingredients as well. Exotic ingredients are those that have not been used with frequency in typical pet foods, such as duck, green peas, buffalo, venison, lentils, and more.

There is increasing evidence linking these diets to a form of heart disease in dogs. The FDA, Tufts University, UC Davis, CVCA and others continue research regarding these concerns. For now, here are links to related information, as well as a statement from our local cardiology group.

The most up to date article from Tufts University can be found here:

From the Chesapeake Veterinary Cardiology Associates (CVCA) Website; Guidance for Pet Owners:

“At this point in time, we are not certain of the exact causal relationship between grain-free and/or high legume diets in atypical dog breeds with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). Taurine deficiency of these pet foods does not appear to be the primary issue in these DCM patients as we have found normal taurine levels in many of these pets with DCM. However, in some breeds such as the Cocker Spaniel and Golden Retriever, we have found low plasma taurine levels.

For now, if there is not a clinical reason (i.e. food allergies or gastrointestinal upset) for use of a limited ingredient, unique protein source (kangaroo, alligator, bison, etc.) diet, we would suggest using alternative diets. Consultation with a board-certified veterinary nutritionist should be considered. Another possible consideration is to use two/three pet foods from different manufacturers including a diet that is not full of legumes (lentils, chickpeas, peas) and has some grain in the product. As we continue to investigate the link between the increased incidence of dilated cardiomyopathy in atypical canine breeds with grain-free diets, we hope to ultimately determine the definitive issue but, for now, we currently do not have that answer.”

CVCA link for info on this grain free diets and heart disease concern in dogs.

Additional References from the FDA, Washington Post and NYTimes:

June 12, 2018 : FDA Investigating Potential Connection Between Diet and Cases of Canine Heart Disease

Washington Post: Grain-free, exotic dog food linked to heart disease

New York Times, July 24, 2018: Popular Grain-Free Dog Foods May Be Linked to Heart Disease


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