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Nutrition and Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Dogs: An Update

Nutrition-Induced Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM): Position Statement

We have written about this issue recently, but as it is an emerging problem we wanted to remind and update you all about this serious problem.

The veterinary community has become aware of an emerging pattern of a heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) being seen in dogs that don’t fit into the “typical” breeds that develop DCM. It strongly suspected that these unusual cases of DCM are related to diet, specifically diets that are grain-free and/or contain exotic ingredients such as kangaroo, duck, bison, venison, lentils, peas, tapioca, chickpeas, etc. DCM is a condition that can eventually lead to abnormal heart rhythms, heart failure, and death.

Cardiologists, nutritionists, and other experts in the field of veterinary medicine are currently researching this issue, but there is still much that is unknown. The exact mechanism and exact role of specific ingredients is not yet known. The majority of dogs eating these diets are doing very well, but a small percentage are developing nutrition related heart disease. Golden retrievers are at a higher risk of nutrition-related DCM, but it has been seen in almost all breeds and in mixed-breed dogs as well.

Grand Avenue Veterinary Center’s position on this issue is that grain-free foods, especially those with suspect ingredients (legumes like peas/lentils/chickpeas, other legume seeds, potatoes, or sweet potatoes) pose a very low but real risk to dogs in contributing to dilated cardiomyopathy. The course of action with the lowest risk is to transition to a grain-inclusive diet that does not contain any suspect ingredients. If your dog is on a grain-free diet as a management strategy for a medical issue, we would be happy to discuss alternative options.

When selecting a diet, we recommend that you choose one that is manufactured with rigorous quality control measures and research behind the formulation. A way to ensure that your diet meets these recommendations is to follow the following guidelines that were generated by a large number of the world’s leading experts in veterinary nutrition. these food selection guidelines can be found  here.

Commentary from the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) regarding this issue can be found here.

As usual, please feel free to contact the clinic and speak with one of our doctors if you have questions about this issue.

Karen Christopherson, DVM