Is Your Dog’s Food Safe?

Must-know info


For the past five years, the FDA has been in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether a life-threat­en­ing dis­or­der in dogs is re­lated to cer­tain di­ets. Thanks to its anal­y­sis of more than 500 cases, here are some ways to pro­tect your pet.

Adan­ger­ous dis­ease is af­fect­ing dogs, and it may be re­lated to their food. Di­lated car­diomy­opa­thy (DCM) weak­ens a dog’s heart mus­cle, lead­ing to a de­crease in blood flow from the heart and through­out the body, says Steven Rosen­thal, D.V.M., car­di­ol­o­gist at CVCA Car­diac Care for Pets, which has lo­ca­tions in four states. The dis­ease can be ge­netic in cer­tain large and gi­ant breeds, but a type of diet as­so­ci­ated DCM has been found in a wider range of breeds, in­clud­ing shih tzus and golden re­triev­ers.

The con­cern about grain-free food

The FDA in­ves­ti­ga­tion, still on­go­ing, has found that many foods eaten by the af­fected dogs were la­beled “grain­free.” How­ever, Rosen­thal ex­plains that it’s not the lack of grain mak­ing pets sick—the is­sue may be the preva­lence of legumes such as lentils and peas.

“We have seen this dis­or­der al­most ex­clu­sively in dogs eat­ing grain-free di­ets high in legumes, pro­duced by the newer bou­tique-type man­u­fac­tur­ers,” Rosen­thal says. (The FDA pub­lished the names of brands as­so­ci­ated with DCM on its web­site.) Lisa M. Free­man, D.V.M., a vet­eri­nary nu­tri­tion­ist at Cum­mings School of Vet­eri­nary Medicine at Tufts Uni­ver­sity, notes that in ad­di­tion to dogs with di­ets that were grain-free or had ex­otic in­gre­di­ents, some dogs eat­ing home­made, raw, veg­e­tar­ian, and ve­gan di­ets were re­ported to the FDA as hav­ing diet-re­lated DCM.

Pro­tect­ing your pet

Be­cause the cause of diet-re­lated DCM is not yet known, Free­man rec­om­mends feed­ing your pet a qual­ity com­mer­cial pet food that meets the World Small An­i­mal Vet­eri­nary As­so­ci­a­tion Guide­lines. The FDA has not specif­i­cally re­called any of the foods af­fected dogs ate, but be­cause of DCM’s pos­si­ble con­nec­tion with legumes, she rec­om­mends avoid­ing foods with a legume in their first 10 in­gre­di­ents (and notes that grain sen­si­tiv­ity in dogs is rare). She also rec­om­mends mon­i­tor­ing your pet, re­gard­less of diet, for signs of DCM, in­clud­ing pant­ing with­out ex­cess ex­er­cise, pro­gres­sive weak­ness, cough­ing, quick or la­bored breath­ing, ab­dom­i­nal swelling, and col­lapse.

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