Pet supply stores across the country have been fielding a lot of questions about pet food, particularly since the FDA released a warning several months ago about grain-free foods possibly contributing to Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM).
What is DCM?
DCM is a potentially fatal heart condition causing the heart muscle to lose strength, thus causing circulation issues, which can lead to congestive heart failure. The disease has been linked genetically to some dog breeds, and can also be caused by a diet lacking in adequate taurine, an amino acid naturally occurring in muscle and organ meat. If caught early, DCM is often reversed with supplementation and/or medication.
The warning statement has understandably confused and scared a lot of pet parents. Many veterinarians are asking their clients to move to foods with grains, having pet owners scratching their heads asking, “I thought grains were bad?”.
The issue has many layers, many of which we are still trying to understand.
Here’s what we know
1) The data used by the FDA is called “Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Dogs & Cats: Complaints Submitted to FDA-CVM.” The document is a compilation of reports of DCM diagnosis between Jan. 1, 2014 to Apr. 30, 2019.
2) The data submitted to the FDA lists all the animals and what they were eating. This list includes almost every known brand of pet food, from Blue Buffalo, Taste of the Wild, Fromm, Hill’s prescription, Iams, Kirkland, Natural Balance, Acana, Science Diet and Purina, to name a few. Although many of these were grain-free foods, many were not.
3) Based on this data, less than 1% of dogs in the U.S. have been diagnosed with DCM.
4) None of the animals on the list were eating a raw-based diet.
5) For preventative measures, many pet parents are nervous and are switching or have switched from grain-free food to food with grains.
Although very sad when a pet is diagnosed with DCM, the disease is still considered fairly rare. And until all the facts are clear and an actual study is conducted, I hesitate to endorse a major change in your pet’s food, as it is simply not well understood at this time.
Conversely, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, almost half of dogs over the age of 10 will develop cancer. Fifty percent! Sadly, this statistic mirrors the cancer rates in humans as well. It is not an exaggeration to be extremely alarmed. We also know that nearly 60% of cats and 53% of dogs are obese in our country. Obesity leads to a whole new set of problems, including joint strain, heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
Please join us
My team and I are committed to providing you with information and products to help you make good decisions around your pets and their health which is why I am excited to invite you to a Live Q&A with Answers Pet Food Nutrition Science Director Billy Hoekman and veterinarian Dr. Keith Weingardt, DVM on March 12, 2020, from 7 pm-9 pm at the Jupiter Hotel in Portland. Hosted by our store and nine other locally-owned Portland-area pet supply stores, this event is free to the public and designed to help answer
any questions you may have regarding pet nutrition, the FDA, any link between Dilated Cardiomyopathy and food, how to help your dog with cancer, etc. Please come with your questions, bring a pad of paper, and learn from two exceptional resources. I simply want you and your pets to live happy, healthy lives. Please RSVP to the Live Q&A by calling 503-249-6571, as space is limited.