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Grain Free Diets

In recent years, vets have seen an increase in their four-legged patients who have come in with heart enlarged heart issues, also called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). It’s a serious heart condition that weakens the ability for the heart to pump blood and can be both progressive and fatal.


Newer cases of DCM have involved dogs with grain free diets. The trend alarmed the FDA enough to start an investigation into whether diet and other factors are putting pets at risk. New research has shown cases of DCM affecting many breeds, not just middle aged and senior larger breeds that have been traditionally linked with the disease. Working with veterinary cardiologists and diagnostic labs, the FDA found 560 cases of DCM in dogs in 2019. More research by the FDA found that over 90 percent of dogs with DCM were being fed diets listed either as “grain-free” or “zero grain.” This means that instead of grains, dog’s diets consisted more of peas and lentils as the main ingredient. Potatoes and sweet potatoes were also found to be part of the grain free diet, although at a lower level than the peas and lentils.


DCM can affect cats too, but in a different way. In cats, DCM is cause by a deficiency in taurine, an amino acid that must be included in a diet since it can’t be made in the body. Once understood that low taurine was the cause of DCM in cats, cat food manufacturers began adding it to their products, making DCM much rarer in cats than dogs.


The investigation into grain-free diets is still ongoing, but the cases of dogs being diagnosed has continued to rise. Although grain-free pet diets have become more popular, grain sensitivities and allergies are pretty rare with pets, so most don’t need a grain-free diet. Still, if pet parents have any problems or concerns, they can contact a vet to discuss dietary options.  


Various sites have been created to help easily provide information about grain-free dog food, read reviews and make the best decision for your pet's diet. It is your responsibility to discuss this information with your vet and make sure it is appropriate for your pet's health. The information contained here is not intended to be a diagnosis, treatment or medical advice that replaces the advice of your own veterinarian. The information is not a substitute for an examination, checkup, or treatment when your pet has a health problem.