Grain Free Diets and Heart Disease in Dogs

In recent years there has been a trend in the pet food industry to produce, market and have pet owners feed grain free diets.  While cats are truly best adapted to a high protein diet, dogs are omnivores who evolved to handle a diet replete with starches. Articles in both Scientific American and Science.

It is known that some individual pets have sensitivities to the proteins in grains, just as they can have sensitivities to meat proteins (beef, lamb, and poultry, for example. Nevertheless, grain-free is now a common label on the pet food shelves.  However, in many of those foods, the starchy content of grains (wheat, oats, corn etc.) has often been replaced with other plant products (peas, lentils, chickpeas, potatoes).

Recently there has been a concerning observation among veterinary cardiologists. As described in a recent New York Times article, dogs are developing heart disease specifically a condition called dilated cardiomyopathy. These are dog breeds that don’t typically develop this condition. The common denominator in the history of these dogs seems to be diets that are grain-free. Instead of corn or other grains these diets have higher amounts of legumes or potatoes in them. While these ingredients have been in pet foods for many years, recently they have been in diets at much higher levels. The FDA recently posted an alert.

It’s early in the investigation, but this will be something the doctors at Fremont Veterinary Clinic will be following very closely and keep our clients apprised as information is available.