Is Your Dog’s Food Safe?
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.