By Dr. Al Townshend
Pet Planet Staff Veterinary
On June 27, 2019, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued their third update on the issue of Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) and a potential link with specific diets. The investigation began in 2014 but picked up in 2018 when an increase in the number of cases started.
Pet Planet has been engaged with the issue from the beginning and is working closely with our pet food manufacturers while following events, as they happen.
Here is What We Know
- Of the approximately 95,000,000 household dogs in North America, there have been just 524 reports of DCM, mostly reported in 2018 and 2019. That is about 0.0005% of the total population — statistically, a minimal number.
- The majority of dogs in the reports ate a grain-free recipe containing legumes or potatoes.
- Even though there have been no direct links between grain-free diets and DCM (no research or scientific studies), the recent FDA update took the unprecedented step of listing the 16 brands of pet food listed in these cases.
- Prior knowledge indicates large and giant breeds have a genetic risk for DCM.
- There was also prior knowledge that a deficiency in the amino acid taurine may contribute to the development of DCM. None of the 16 brands listed in the FDA update have been reported to be deficient in taurine.
- Meat and fish are some of the best sources of taurine.
Two essential amino acids needed for dogs include cysteine and methionine.
- Multiple mainstream news and media outlets, including social media, have reported on the issue. Many of these reports inaccurately represent the FDA’s statement, saying there is a confirmed link between these grain-free diets and DCM.
- However, these claims differ from the actual position stated by the FDA which was meant to imply the possibility or potential for a connection between the two. The information relayed by the FDA was a gathering of their case information, but there was no investigative study referenced at this time.
- At present, neither the FDA, the American Veterinary Medical Association or the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, have recommended any change in diet for healthy pets. For dogs showing signs of heart disease (coughing, shortness of breath, etc.), Guardians should consult their veterinarian.
- Guardians, retailers, food brands & the veterinarian community are all in agreement that the issue is complicated and requires further study before settling on a definitive conclusion.
- High quality, high meat content, grain-free pet foods has been manufactured and fed for over 20 years, and millions of dogs have benefitted from the better nutrition they have provided.
- Because grain-free diets containing legumes have been sold and fed for over 20 years, it is unlikely and premature to assume they are solely responsible for the apparent increase in DCM cases that have occurred in the past two years.
- Pet Planet works closely with the manufacturers of all items in our assortment to assure Guardians that the products we recommend are, to the best of our knowledge, safe and appropriate for pets. We have consulted closely with all our food brand partners, and they have provided documentation and assurances around the adequacy and testing of their products concerning the amino acids, taurine, cysteine, and methionine. Several manufacturers have been adding supplemental taurine to their products for some time, as an added precaution.
Pet Planet will continue to monitor the developing research and understanding regarding DCM. “Nutrition is the best preventative medicine” and choosing a nutritional plan that includes a healthy, high meat content food, safe and purposeful treats, and supplements to enhance a pet’s overall health is the best way to provide optimum health for pets.
Our uncompromising mission at Pet Planet is, and has always been, to help pets live longer, happier, healthier lives. Guardians can rest assured that they can visit their local Pet Planet with any questions they might have on this or any other issues related to their pet’s health.
Because information about DCM is currently changing and evolving, there may be instances where you may see conflicting “statistics”. Pet Planet will continue to share all the information we gather to ensure that our customers get the most comprehensive information possible. As always our goal remains to be true to our mission to always help pets live longer, happier and healthier lives.
Thank you for trusting us to be with you on your Guardianship journey.