Heartbreak: Key Points on DCM & Pet Food

March 31st, 2020 by Heaven At Home Staff

Are you confused by reports that grain-free and exotic dog food ingredients may be causing an increased number of dogs to die prematurely of “DCM” (dilated cardiomyopathy)? The stakes are high in the $30 billion petfood market where boutique producers are pitted against mounting evidence from the FDA. It’s hard for pet parents to cut through the spin to get the facts.

To make matters worse, nutritional DCM is one of those rare diseases where we have “the cure” before we conclusively know the precise cause, though high proportions of legumes in grain free foods are suspect.

Here are key talking points to discuss with your veterinarian:

DCM is referred to as a “Silent Killer” because often by the time a dog shows outward signs from an enlarged heart, it’s too late to avoid DCM. Reports include sudden collapse of seemingly healthy dogs of all ages and breeds.

Diet-Related DCM is distinct from hereditary DCM because if caught early it can be reversed by a change in food. There have now been many such cases where switching to a major brand with a veterinary nutritionist on staff and, in some cases, taurine supplementation has corrected the issue.

Low levels of taurine do not confirm a diagnosis, and in many cases, levels are normal. While a pre-screening blood test called NT-proBNP can help identify early stages of heart failure, only an echocardiogram can confirm a diagnosis.

Dog food ingredients work together. The bioavailability of certain nutrients changes, sometimes dramatically, depending on the other nutrients and foods in the recipe. This is why a helping of green beans may be harmless, but a food composed predominantly of legumes through ingredient-splitting (listing peas, chick peas, beans separately) could theoretically interfere with absorption of taurine or other nutrients vital to heart health. The quest to identify the cause continues.

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) and the cardiologists and nutritionists who first uncovered Diet-Related DCM recommend selecting pet foods that have been:

  1. formulated by an on-staff Phd Veterinary Nutritionist
  2. with product research published in peer-reviewed journals
  3. and perform a minimum of live AAFCO feeding trials, with a preference for long-term digestibility research
  4. with quality testing of every batch

If you’re feeding your pet grain-free foods, be sure to discuss your options and risk with your veterinarian.

For more information, visit: https://dcmdogfood.com/


 
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