• Samantha Henson

Addressing the report of grain free foods and heart disease in dogs

Updated: Aug 14, 2018

Lately, there has been a massive amount of media surrounding studies linking grain free diets to Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM), or enlarged heart. As a dog owner, you may be afraid or nervous, but let’s not jump the gun. 


When you look closely at the report, there is very little, if any, hard evidence supporting the link between them.


The study shows that foods high in legumes, starches, and beet pulp — including peas, chickpeas, lentils, potatoes, and sweet potatoes — are blocking the dogs body’s ability to process Taurine. Taurine is an amino acid found in meat, and was once thought to be non-essential nutrient for dogs. 


Dogs with an increased risk for DCM are Golden Retrievers, Dobermans, Cockers Spaniels, Boxers, Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Dalmatians, Portuguese Water dogs, Sheepdogs, Newfoundlands, Afghans, and a few others large breeds. 


Please also note not all grain free foods are created equal. If you are nervous or concerned about what to feed your dog, some brands we recommend are any protein of Farmina N&D; Earthborn Venture; Earthborn Holistic; raw coated formulas of Canidae PURE Ancestral; and any of our baked kibbles, including Lotus, Carna4, Stella & Chewy’s, and Tiki Dog. Baking the kibble preserves a lot of the Taurine, whereas extruding can destroy it. This is also true of any high-starch and carb food, grained food included. 


Another prevalent concern is Phytoestrogen, which is a compound found in all plants, but most prevalent in flaxseed, soy, legumes, and sweet potatoes. Simply put, dogs and cats need meat, not high amounts of synthesized estrogen, this is especially true for un-neutered male dogs intended for breeding.


While I believe the FDA ‘s report is incomplete and inconclusive, I do think dogs should be supplemented with Taurine. Chicken hearts and seafood are one of the easiest and most affordable ways to get this amino acid, and dogs love them. 


If you’re feeling put off by kibble, consider a balanced raw diet. None of the aforementioned concerns are present when a dog is on a raw food diet. The food is abundant in Taurine, and contains no phytoestrogen. I urge pet owners to reach out to a licensed pet nutritionist with questions about pet food.  


Common Questions:

Q. Do I need to switch to a food with grain?

  • We can certainly help you find a grained food, but it is by no means necessary. For grained food, I suggest Fromm Gold, Nutrisource, Natural Planet Organics, and many others. We have several clean, healthy grain free foods that are similar to what your dog is used to. 

Q. How can I add Taurine to my dogs diet?

  • Just one can of Evanger’s sardines per week can provide a sufficient amount of taurine for a 60 lb. dog. Or try one freeze dried chicken heart or Vital Essentials freeze dried minnow per day. 

Q. My dog can’t have grains and is on an affected food. What can I do?

  • Turkey, Squid or Pollock Earthborn Venture, Farmina Pumpkin Formulas, or raw would all be options for this situation. 

Q. Is there someone I can talk to about this?

  • Absolutely! My name is Samantha Henson, I am a Licensed Clinical Pet Nutritionist, and am more than willing to help answer your questions and alleviate any fears.

Don't jump the gun on switching your dog to food with grain!


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