Is your pet currently eating a diet with exotic protein sources? A grain-free diet? Or a boutique diet? With new pet foods popping up all the time, it can be overwhelming trying to choose what is most nutritious for your pet. As the food trends change, specialized diets such as grain-free pet foods have become increasingly popular due to a misconception that grains are “fillers”. However, grains are actually a great source of nutrition containing protein, digestible carbohydrates, fibre and vitamins! Despite this, conventional grains are being replaced with alternatives carbohydrates such as peas, lentils, legume seeds and potatoes. Exotic ingredients are being marketed as more “natural” and healthy.
Recently, there has been reports of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating grain-free, exotic ingredient or boutique diets. While there are certain breeds that are genetically predisposed to developing this condition, reports are occurring in unusual breeds. DCM is a disease of the heart in which the heart muscles of the ventricles become weak. The heart starts to lose its contracting ability and pumps blood less efficiently, and so, the ventricles enlarge to compensate. The heart begins fighting against a buildup of pressure, and eventually, there can be a buildup of fluid in the lungs and cause congestive heart failure.
In July 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have published an alert about the suspected link between DCM and grain-free diets while the investigation is underway.
Can nutrient deficiencies be a cause of DCM?
Taurine is an amino acid that is made by the body, but its production and bioavailability can be altered by dietary factors. In some cases, dogs on these unconventional diets have had a deficiency in taurine and have improved with taurine supplementation. However, the picture is not quite clear. There have been dogs with sufficient taurine that have also improved with taurine supplementation and diet change.
Consider the diet your pet is on. When selecting a diet, look for a reputable manufacturer that focuses on quality control standards.
Watch for weakness, coughing, trouble breathing and slowing down on walks — all signs of heart disease.
Get your pet assessed by a veterinarian if you have any concerns.