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FDA Investigation into Potential Link between Certain Diets and Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy

In July 2018, the FDA announced that it had begun investigating reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating certain pet foods containing a high proportion of peas, lentils, other legume seeds (pulses), and/or potatoes in various forms (whole, flour, protein, etc.) as main ingredients (listed within the first 10 ingredients in the ingredient list, before vitamins and minerals). Many of these case reports included breeds of dogs not previously known to have a genetic predisposition to the disease. The FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) and the Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network (Vet-LIRN), a collaboration of government and veterinary diagnostic laboratories, continue to investigate this potential association. Based on the data collected and analyzed thus far, the agency believes that the potential association between diet and DCM in dogs is a complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors.
We understand the concern that pet owners have about these reports: the illnesses can be severe, even fatal, and many cases report eating “grain-free” labeled pet food. The FDA is using multiple science-based investigative tools as it strives to learn more about the evolution of this outbreak of DCM and its potential link to certain diets or ingredients.
This update does not include reports received in December and January due to the lapse in appropriations from December 22, 2018, to January 25, 2019. Because the Anti-Deficiency Act does not except activities that are solely related to protecting “animal health,” FDA was not able to continue its investigation during that time.

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A comparative illustration of a normal heart and a heart affected by dilated cardiomyopathy. Dilated cardiomyopathy is the most common type of cardiomyopathy often caused by coronary heart disease, diabetes, alcohol abuse, viral infections, thyroid disease, or genetics. The walls of the ventricles stretch and thin (dilate), creating an enlarged heart. This inhibits the heart’s ability to pump enough blood throughout the body and may also result in abnormal heart beats (arrhythmia).

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FDA Alert – Grain-Free Dog Food

Jul 28, 2018
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is investigating a possible link between incidents of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs and extended consumption of “grain-free” dog food, after several reports from veterinarians.
Earlier this month the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning to dog owners about a potential connection between diet (specifically a certain kind of dog food) and a disease called dilated cardiomyopathy or DCM.
The condition is one of the most common causes of heart failure in certain large dog breeds, such as Dobermans, Great Danes and Boxers, but reports received by the FDA show DCM occurring in breeds not usually prone to the disease, such as Retrievers, Whippets, even some mixed breeds.
The one common factor in the reported cases seems to be a diet high in things like potatoes, peas, lentils, legume seeds, which are often the main ingredients in dog foods labeled as “grain-free”. In the cases reported to the FDA, veterinarians indicated the dogs had been eating such foods consistently for months or years.
Several of the animals had low blood levels of the amino acid taurine. It has been shown that taurine deficiency can lead to DCM, and the FDA suspects that grain-free foods containing potatoes, peas and legumes might be causing the reduction of taurine levels in dogs.
No specific brands of dog food were listed in the FDA warning, but owners can check to see if potatoes, peas, lentils or legumes are listed as main ingredients in their pet’s food. Even better check with your veterinarian for recommendations about the best diet for your own furry friend.
So, how would you know if your dog might be suffering from dilated cardiomyopathy? Symptoms include coughing, difficulty breathing, reduced energy – if your buddy can’t play like it used to, or chase the ball, or gets winded easily, it’s time for a visit to the doctor. If your veterinarian suspects your pet may have DCM linked to its diet, report it to the FDA.
You can read the FDA warning about the potential connection between diet and canine heart problems by visiting the agency’s website at
We all want to do what’s best for our four-footed friends, including feeding them a healthy diet. But for dogs, “grain-free” may not be the best choice, especially when we’re speaking of pets.
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