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Dog Food and Heart Disease: Update

As many people may be aware, the FDA recently released an updated statement about a possible connection between certain dog foods and a type of heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy or DCM. Right now all we really know is that there has been an unexpected increase in cases of DCM over the last few years and the only common factor identified is diet. These are being identified as BEG diets: Boutique, Exotic ingredient, and Grain-Free diets. The difference between the most recent FDA release and prior releases on this issue was that specific brands were named.

It is not completely proven or understood at this time if the diets are definitively causing the disease and if they are, what exactly the mechanism is. However, there is enough concern over the clear association to investigate further, and there is research taking place to get to the bottom of it.

Many grain free diets contain peas, lentils, or other legumes to replace the grains as a source of fiber and to help kibbles hold their shape. It was initially speculated that these ingredients might interfere with absorption of taurine, an amino acid, as taurine deficiency can cause DCM. However, many affected dogs have normal taurine levels.

With the information we have now, the most cautious approach is to switch dogs currently eating BEG diets and diets listed by the FDA to foods that follow WSAVA guidelines (see link below). It just depends on how comfortable you are with some degree of uncertainty while this is all being figured out.

A local cardiologist, Dr. Rose at Animal Emergency and Referral Center, recently wrote an excellent blog post about this issue that can be found at

Information about WSAVA guidelines can be found here:

And this is another article that canhelp you choose a food:

Please let us know if you have more questions. This is a scary time as we all want more information that just isn’t available yet so we can make the best decisions for our pets.

Karen Christopherson DVM CVA