Grain-free diet not linked to DCM in dogs, research review finds

While further research is needed, a literature review of 150 studies indicates dilated cardiomyopathy is inherited in dogs

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs is largely an inherited disease and not the result of a grain-free or legume-rich diet.

This is according to a literature review of 150 studies on the causes of DCM conducted by a group of veterinarians, veterinary cardiologists, and animal nutritionists from BSM Partners published in the Journal of Animal Science (JAS). BSM is a pet care research and consulting firm that works with numerous pet food companies.

According to the authors, the analysis found no definitive relationship between grain-free and legume-rich diets and incidents of DCM. Further, they say the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) reported cases of DCM include incomplete information (e.g. no mention of a dog’s diet history, age, etc.), making it impossible to draw any sound conclusions from this data.

“We wanted to gain the best understanding of this issue, so we examined the results of more than 150 studies, which taken together, did not support a link between grain-free and legume-rich diets and DCM,” says Sydney McCauley, PhD, an animal nutritionist and the review’s lead author. “What the science does make clear is DCM is largely an inherited disease.”

The peer-reviewed article also discusses published research that looks at other factors that could contribute to the presence of DCM, including nutrient deficiencies, myocarditis, chronic tachycardia, and hypothyroid disease.

“We believe further research is needed in order to reach sound conclusions with respect to the relationship between diet and DCM,” says the review’s coauthor, Eva Oxford, DVM, PhD, DACVIM (cardiology).

To read the literature review, click here.

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  1. I think it would be worth reviewing DCM incidence in relation to time since, or frequency of, vaccination.
    Research shows there is a link in Cocker Spaniels between DCM and vaccination, presumably triggering autoimmunity.
    I have had Cocker Spaniel and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breeder clients dogs have significantly less DCM and also congestive cardiac disease over many years when they changed from annual vaccination to titre testing instead.
    For about twenty five years, I have had clients titre test adult dogs and only vaccinate if needed (most go a lifetime not needing further vaccination after puppy vaccines) and I now consider it normal to see dogs living frequently to over fifteen years old, often with no cardiac disease. I have over 4000 clients on file whose dogs have followed this protocol., and none to my knowledge have contracted parvovirus or distemper.

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