• Samantha Henson

UPDATE: FDA Announces No Link Between Grain-Free Diets and Canine DCM

Two years ago I wrote about how the FDA and various media platforms were unfairly calling out specific brands of dog food, linking them to the cause of Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart or DCM) and urged my clients and followers not to panic. Science was telling us that this wasn't possible, yet the media and huge conglomerate dog food companies continuously villainized grain free foods to the point of several companies having to shut their doors.

One year ago I wrote about my disbelief that this was still an ongoing issue with no proof, evidence or anything to show for its continual bashing of grain-free diets. This topic had become a conversation point for every dog owner I spoke to, every appointment, every email, and every class I taught. My world was consumed by fearful pet owners wanting to do the best for their dogs.

Today I write about the frustrating-yet-happy fact that the FDA has now announced that there is no link between any grain free diet and DCM. In their announcement they go on to say that any breed can present with a DCM phenotype and there are many known causes including an inherited predisposition or another cause (viral, tick-borne, autoimmune, etc) but the lack of grains in a canine diet is not one of them.

The reason I find this frustrating is because not only did so many pet industry employees lose their jobs, but dogs across the country were made to go on very sub-par corn based diets and unfortunately suffered the consequences. Over the past two years, the amount of dogs that were switched to foods like Hills, Royal Canin, Purina, and Pedigree that then went on to become riddled with itchiness, ear infections, hair loss, inflammation, etc is mind numbing. Every week I'm seeing so many new patients that are now on prescription allergy meds (looking at you, Apoquel) just in order to eat a food that they are allergic or sensitive to and quite frankly, I lose sleep over it. It makes me sad thinking about what is happening inside these poor dogs' bodies when it never needed to in the first place.

Regardless of whether the food is grain-free or grain-inclusive the diet must contain sufficient levels of meat protein and not protein primarily from plants ( i.e. rice, brewers rice, oats, hydrolyzed soy protein, wheat, corn gluten meal, etc.). Meat protein is key to ensure the proper levels of amino acids for your pet’s diet. This is a nutritional standard that has never and will never change. I think it's also important to note that there are some truly unhealthy grain free diets available as well. Terrible dog food comes in all forms. Know what your pet is eating - if you don't, please ask. I am not paid by pet food companies so I can be unbiased and completely honest about my answers.


And now for those of you who came here for the info and not my venting Ted Talk session, here we go:

  • Per the FDA report, “the American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that there are 77 million pet dogs in the United States. As of April 30, 2019, the FDA has received reports about 560 dogs diagnosed with DCM suspected to be linked to diet. Tens of millions of dogs have been eating dog food without developing DCM.”

  • That’s 560 dogs out of 72 million.  Approximately one in four dogs will get cancer every year and nearly half of all dogs over ten will die from it. Now, that’s something to be concerned about, in comparison to the 0.000007% chance of DCM.

  • The brands associated with the increase in DCM are the most popular brands and not solely those available in the small independent pet market but the big brands as well. 

  • Originally it was thought that exotic proteins were the issue but the FDA reports that 75% were not exotic proteins but actually chicken.  Not that chicken itself is the issue just that it’s the most popular protein.

  • 95% of the dogs were fed solely dry kibble and not rotated off any particular food, sometimes for years.

  • 25% of the dogs are predisposed to getting DCM genetically.

  • This is an on-going investigation and the FDA has based their statement on the data collected and analyzed thus far, the agency believes that the potential association between diet and DCM in dogs is a complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors.

Feel free to email me for any questions, I would be honored to help.


Additional links:

https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/cvm-updates/interdisciplinary-scientific-cooperation-will-lead-way-understanding-non-hereditary-dcm


https://www.petbusiness.com/industry-news/fda-finds-no-evidence-that-grain-free-diets-cause-canine-heart-disease/article_6c907756-229e-11eb-b387-530c76dca466.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=email&utm_campaign=user-share&fbclid=IwAR06L7nZaMJ6WUNYiqmdSmCw7lSIXspZlxjbZ_efg_O0ahSfleoNO-Tb-KA