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FOOD FOR THOUGHT #2.5

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Publish Date: 6/30/2019 5:51 AM

Diet-Induced Heart Disease in Dogs – Does this really change anything?

By Joshua Atz, DVM

Does the June 27, 2019 information update from the FDA on diet-associated heart disease (particularly DCM, dilated cardiomyopathy) in dogs really add any new actionable information for pet owners? Not really.

In supplying the names of the top 16 food brands identified in their case reports one might think that the solution would be as simple as not feeding diets from any of those 16 brands. That’s about as practical as the solution for car accidents being not driving. However, you should wear a seat belt. And it is interesting that the top two reported brands are definitely not the two most popular brands of dog food meaning they are clearly over-represented in these case reports. A recent look at the products from both of those brands reveals that essentially all of their dry foods contain some form of peas and/or lentils which really just echoes the FDA data that 93% of the diets in the reported cases contained peas and/or lentils. Beyond that association everything else approaches random. There really doesn’t seem to be a direct correlation with protein source. And the grain-free association may just be that peas and lentils are not typical components of grain-containing diets. And there are dogs that are not eating a grain-free diet that get DCM. The complexity of the situation is apparent when we recognize that tens of thousands of apparently healthy dogs are eating the same diets that MAY have contributed to clinical heart disease in this VERY small number of dogs. Even if we agree with the FDA that these cases are underreported (a pretty safe assumption) and even if we hypothesize that there might be thousands of dogs walking around with slightly dilated hearts (due to diet) that are still functioning okay (I’m going out on a limb with that one but it is possible), there are clearly factors well beyond diet that determine whether a will develop DCM or not.

So what’s a worried pet owner to do? Number one is to maintain perspective (read Food For Thought #2). Number two might be to vary your dog’s diet, especially if peas or lentils are in the top 10 ingredients. Beyond that: make sure your dog is at a healthy weight; supply exercise, environmental enrichment, love and appropriate parasite prevention; and stay tuned.

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