Pet Medical Amy R. Nickels,  DVM

Heart disease is common in our companion animals, affecting 10-15% of all dogs and cats. Most nutritional recommendations focus on treating dogs and cats with heart disease and there is much less information on the role of diet in causing heart disease. However, a recent increase in heart disease in dogs eating certain types of diets may shed light on the role of diet in causing heart disease. It appears that diet may be increasing dog’s risk because owners have fallen victim to the many myths and misperceptions about pet food.

The FDA is alerting pet owners and veterinary professionals about reports of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating certain pet foods. These reports are unusual because DCM is occcuring in breeds not typically genetically prone to the disease. The FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine and the Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network, a collaboration of government and veterinary diagnostic laboratories, are investigating this potential association.

In the reports that the FDA has received, some of the dogs eating “Grain-Free” diets showed signs of heart disease, including decreased energy, cough, difficulty breathing, and episodes of collapse. As of late, veterinarians across the United States have reported more cases of nutritional deficiencies due to people feeding these unconventional diets.

The pet food industry is a competitive one, with more and more companies joining the market every year. Marketing is a powerful tool for selling pet foods and has initiated and expanded fads that are all unsupported by nutritional science, including grain- free diets. All this makes it difficult for pet owners to know what is truly the best food for their pet.

Sometimes, the changes made to pet nutrition advance our knowledge and the health of our pets. In other cases, we can take a step in the wrong direction when the marketing outpaces the science.

Hopefully, identifying this issue will allow us to set a new, more science-based approach to the optimal nutrition of our pets. What should you do? First and foremost, contact your veterinarian. He or she will be more than happy to go over the proper diet for your pet. If you have any additional questions, call us at (931) 393-2707!