Increase in DCM in dogs may be linked to diet

FDA investigating connection between canine heart disease and pet food ingredients

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Instances of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) may be correlated to specific ingredients in pet foods, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The agency is warning veterinary professionals about occurrences of the disease in dogs consuming foods containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes as main ingredients. The FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) and the Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network (Vet-LIRN), a collaboration of government and veterinary diagnostic laboratories, are investigating this potential association.

While the cause of DCM is unknown, the disease is thought to have a genetic component. Large and giant breed dogs (e.g. Great Danes, boxers, Newfoundlands, etc.) tend to be more affected, while instances are less common in small and medium breeds (with the exception of American and English cocker spaniels); however, cases reported to the FDA include breeds not typically generally prone to DCM (e.g. golden and Labrador retrievers, whippets, and miniature schnauzers.)

Diets in cases reported to the FDA frequently consist of foods listing potatoes or multiple legumes (e.g. peas, lentils) and their protein, starch, and fiber derivatives early in the ingredient list, suggesting these are main ingredients. Early reports indicate affected dogs consistently ate these foods as their primary source of nutrition for periods ranging from months to years.

In the cases reported to the FDA, some of the dogs demonstrated signs of heart disease, such as decreased energy, cough, difficulty breathing, and episodes of collapse. Medical records for four atypical DCM cases (i.e. three golden retrievers and one Labrador retriever) showed low whole blood levels of taurine, a deficiency that potentially leads to DCM, while four other atypical breeds (a miniature schnauzer, Shih Tzu, and two Labrador retrievers) had normal blood taurine levels.

The FDA says it will continue to work with veterinary cardiologists and veterinary nutritionists to better understand the clinical presentation of these dogs. The agency has also been in contact with pet food manufacturers to discuss these reports and to help further the investigation.

Veterinarians are encouraged to report cases of DCM in dogs suspected of having a link to diet by using the electronic Safety Reporting Portal or calling their state’s FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinators.

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41 thoughts on “Increase in DCM in dogs may be linked to diet

  1. How about telling the truth the fact of the matter is ALL dry kibble and most canned foods are GARBAGE and not real food so of course it can cause heart conditions, it not only can cause heart conditions, but cause more and more cancers as well, obesity, diabetes, kidney & liver disease & failure, Many skin issues and chronic ear infections – I can go on and on. Start feeding your pets the diets their bodies have always eaten and always been designed to eating, which is a proper complete raw diet primarily from herbivore animals NOT tons of chicken, turkey and NEVER any pork!

    1. Dogs are not wolves, raw diets are NOT good diets for our pets. Raw food is harder to digest resulting in lower calories absorbed/assimilated. The pet need to eat a lot more just to get what is in a cooked diet. Review research done by proper authorities, not just some one who thinks they know what they are talking about. Now, not all commercial diets are good either as many studies have shown. Stick with a company with a proven track record and minimal recalls. Don’t forget, the average life span of a wild canid is 5-7 years. If that’s what you want, then feed raw!

      1. “Raw diet is harder to digest” it’s a myth. Handful researches comparing cooked vs raw meat don’t support such conclusion.
        “animal in the wild live shorter so raw diet is bad” Flawed logic and wrong. Animals in the wild don’t have vaccines,proper medical care,safe environment and enough food.Thinking wild prey=raw diet,and blaming raw diet as the sole culprit of shorter life span is terribly biased.

      2. Thank you for reiterating this fact. I’m not a pro and have done the same research. If raw is duh a great diet then why all the recalls for salmonella? Duh… thousands of years of domestication causes evolutionary changes even if all breeds derived from wolves. Modichs name fits…a “handful” of data that you may have chosen to back your argument is bs.. you’re as fake as the current POTUS.. please let us know once your dog gets sick and dies

        1. Avi – I have fed 3 golden retrievers raw diets starting at age 10 weeks. Our first 2 were extremely healthy (only yearly physicals necessary). We also titred for vaccines. They both lived healthy, active lives and lived to be 15 years old. We are doing the same with our 3rd golden who will be 2 years old in June.

      3. My 7-year old boxer-pit mix was diagnosed with DCM today, and I made the heart-wrenching decision to let her go, rather than try and medicate her and give her a marginal few more months. She was a rescue I adopted at 9 wks old, and was a sickly pup for many months. She couldn’t tolerate a kibble diet, and vet recommended boiled chicken and white rice. At 6 months I transitioned her to a raw diet, and she did so well. At least until now. So if I take a lesson from this site, it is this: she had a high quality life for 6 1/2 years eating a raw meat diet with organs, pureed vegetables and occasional high-quality kibble. Her disease symptoms appeared one week ago, and progressed quickly. I did not want her to suffer, so I let her go once I knew the extent of her DCM. She was so very sick on a 100% kibble diet (recurrent vomiting, explosive diarrhea), and I believe her qualify of life was extremely high on the raw. But as you say, the life span of a wild canid is 5-7 years, so I believe she got the best quality of life and her illness didn’t drag on. Thank you for the information.

      4. You clearly have not researched raw diet. Dogs digest raw food much better than garbage processed crap. Do your research versus listening to the pet food industry and watching commercials.

    2. UGH…I am a veterinarian and I certainly understand concern about pet food with all the recalls that happen. But most of those are the cheaper foods. With regard to the skin and ear infections, that is about an allergy to the protein in the food and NOT a quality issue. With regards to raw diets, besides my concern on all the illnesses and parasites you can get from raw meat, I have also seen dogs on these diets have changes in their blood work that concerns me. Unlike the author of the response above, I will not claim to be an expert in an area I am not, so not sure if those changes are of concern but will be watching those animals in the future!

      1. Freezing the meat (fish) at below 0 farenheight temperature will kill all viruses, bacteria parasites. My concern about raw diets is that too much protein is consumed. Most dogs are pets who are not working dogs and don’t require 95% protein diets. Sweet potatoes, squash, green leafy vegetable are well tolerated when ground up and should comprise up to 50% of the diet. My other concern is that providing only muscle meat, which does not contain bone or calcium drives up the phosphorus levels.

      2. It’s way to risky to give your dog raw meat. And, there is little to be gained by giving them a raw diet. I am concerned about the DCM issues and have been told that part of the problem is that too many dog foods contain large amounts of legumes and potatoes, which seems to be an issue for the formation of DCM. My vet told me not to feed my dogs grain free dog food. She probably does not know how hard it is to find high quality food (like Fromms, Acana, etc) that DOES have grain. My vet told me to feed Iams, Royal Canine, etc. That’s preposterous. Those foods stink, frankly. Be careful when listening to your vet. They sell a lot of that stuff and have a financial incentive to recommend food that your pet should not be eating. The FDA is currently trying to determine the “cause and effect” of DCM and to what extent, if at all, it’s related to diet.

        1. You obviously don’t know what you are talking about. I am a veterinarian and I don’t sell dog food. Royal Canin and Iams are excellent diets formulated based upon massive research and expert nutritionists.

          1. I guess you havent seen the online awful dog experiments IAMS does to there animals. THE WORST COMPANY EVER. Do your research Vet

          2. Sorry, Ronald, but I would never take any animal to a vet who describes IAms as “excellent” dog food.

            As for raw, we had a pit mix that had skin allergies and other immune system challenges. We tried him on raw for awhile, having read that it could strengthen the immune system. After awhile I asked our holistic vet if raw could be too much of a challenge for a dog whose immune system was already compromise, and she said yes. So we stopped raw. Donated many bags of frozen raw to a wildlife center, where it was fed to raptors.

        2. What do you think the rest of the companies in the industry do? They convince people that dogs don’t eat grains. So what do they do? Take cheap peas and potatoes and put them in their foods. Then they charge double for it. If dogs don’t eat grains, then they SURELY don’t eat potatoes or peas. The grain-free diet is one of the biggest scams the pet food industry has ever seen. There is no science behind the grain-free idea. And the ONLY pet food companies that have board certified nutritionists on staff, and the only pet food companies that do food trails are the ones you think are preposterous.

      3. I love this response but what type of changes did you see in some of the dogs. I realize its way to early to find a root cause as their is too many variables.

  2. Diet certainly plays a role in an animals physical well being, but not as much as lack of exercise and the amount of food consumed.

  3. I have a senior cocker spaniel with heart disease. I had been feeding grain free for years. I’m currently feeding Fromm. His cardiologist recommended taking him off of the grain free due to all he has been reading and following about DCM and grain free food. He said to stay away from foods with lamb, peas, lentils, potatoes in the first 5 ingredients. Any suggestions?

    1. My cardiologist just recommended the same thing.. I feed grain free Fromm as well and have a 2 yr Jack Russell with ASD. They gave a list of foods and I am going with royal canine early cardiac. I hope this helps.

    2. If you look at the Grain Free formulations of Farmina (made in Italy and subject to stricter controls in EUROPE), they have to disclose protein sources by percentage and the formula I use is 96 percent animal protein. They are grin free with a pumpkin base, and contain lamb and blueberries. No legumes at all. The difference is the USA companies substutite cheap plant proteins in leiu of expensive animal protein. Latest tests show certain breeds with DCM on both grain free and grain diets but legumes are the only thing in common. Schnauzers and Golden Retriever are 2 most susceptible so far. The way certain breeds digest legumes releases enzymes into the bloodstream that cause cardiomyopathy across certain breeds. Other breeds do not have this problem. So looking at the lablels that have peas, lentils, chickpeas, legumes as ingredients is a poor formulation. Not all grin free formulas have this.

  4. I am so bitter because I just lost my best friend (Doberman) to DCM, I miss him every day waking up and he is not at my side…He was extremely muscular and very loyal, I was destroyed when the doctor said he recommends putting him down NOW..DCM is a silent killer when you least expect it,, it is there..

    1. I’m so so sorry for your loss. It is truly devastating to lose your best friend. I’ve just been told my best friend has DCM out of nowhere and I can’t wrap my mind around about the prospect of losing my sweet, gentle German Shepherd boy. I fall apart at the thought of it. How did you treat your dog for DCM? I was recommended to go to a cardiologist and nutritionist but not really sure about about how treatable it is and level of life quality and for how long. Would love any of your insight. Again, I’m so sorry and hope your heart heals sooner rather than later.

    2. Sorry, for your loss. My Labrador was just diagnosed with DCM yesterday after his ultrasound. I have a couple of questions if you dont mind?
      How far advanced was his DCM and were heart drugs not prescribed to buy him some time??
      I’m upset by this.

    3. Gus, I am on my second Great Dane with DCM. It is a horrible disease, but unlikely your Doberman’s DCM was caused by diet. As with Great Danes, Dobies are susceptible to DCM so unfortunately, just like my kiddo, yours got the short straw too. 🙁

    4. I lost my miniature schnauzer to this last year. Heartbreaking to read that it may have been his diet. I spent good money on what I thought was a healthy top of the line formula that turns out might have been killing him. I have a new puppy and now I’m so confused about what to feed her!

  5. This is crap. Many specific breeds of dogs are predisposed to DCM in the first place. Even with the half assed dry food that people have fed their dogs for ages, many of those dogs have lived very long lives. Dogs don’t live that long as it is, and dog food has come a very long way. So tired of all this desperate misinformation. Stop looking for a boogeyman to blame. It doesn’t help anybody.

  6. Thank you! Back in the day do we remember what dogs were fed? Do we remember how long they lived? Knowing too much and trying to keep them too “heathy” is killing them

    1. If we compare all the ingredients in the “cheap food” years ago to the ingredients in today’s cheap food, I doubt we would see the same stuff. Today’s food (human and pet) is full of additives and so many other unhealthy chemicals, I’m not surprised we are seeing more disease.

  7. The numbers speak for themselves. The most food related DCM cases are dogs that have been fed Acana, Fromm, and other boutique brands. There have been zero cases from Purina, Hills, Iams, and Royal Canin.

  8. Fed my German Shepherd a lifetime diet of grain free dog food and raw beef and chicken plus raw milk when we had a cow. She lived to be 14 years old, arthritis and cancer free.

  9. Sharon, I wholeheartedly agree with you.
    I think we forgot that food was never meant to make us or our pets sick. It should be simple, from Earth full of minerals and raw organic (meaning from the source) vitamins and NEVER made in a lab.

    The fact that Vets become defensive when people speak against dry kibble and suggesting to get facts straight from authority instead is belittling and appalling and is a scare tactic.
    The fact that Vets *!*continue*!* to recommend dead bottom grade kibble in order to preserve their income or some simply have no clue of dogs’ needs is not shocking. How else would they make money if there were no treatments or sick dogs? Besides genetic traits, dogs were not meant to get sick off of what they eat. Neither were humans. I don’t have a degree in biology but I speak from experience and simply common sense. There are good Vets out there who truly care for animals’ well-being and DO recommend raw feeding but far and few. By raw I mean meat protein and plant matter.

    Unfortunately I did not learn this way of feeding until I too lost my other boxer to kibble death. His body finally gave out from lymphoma. When lymphs cannot process wastes out of body, cancer occurs and organs malfunction.

    I have another 8 yr old pure bred boxer who I transitioned from kibble to raw meat (not daily) about a year ago, consisting of quality cuts of chicken, fat removed (toxins are stored in fat), beef, lamb, duck, turkey in a ratio of secreting organs like pancreas (Sweetbreads), kidneys, liver, spleen, muscle meat and bone. Also farm fresh eggs, mackerel and sardines. I feed him meat 2-3 times a week and other days he gets fresh fruit, berries, melon and cooked sweet potato with cooked quinoa or buckwheat.

    Parasites from raw? Dogs have a higher tolerance to ‘bugs’ than humans (why do you think they burry their bone?) They have high stomach acid made to digest questionable foods.

    They’re descendants of wolves with over 90% DNA intact. These are just common facts. Their digestion is still the same inside. From my research, they cannot process carbs. Carbs (aside from fruit which gives them energy) and grains is what makes them sick. They do not digest grains well but do well on seeds, like quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth and others.

    *** I’ve seen a healing occur in him. He was overweight, had IBS, diarrhea, constant splinters in paws, constant heavy breathing (maybe he was on the way to having DCM?), benign carcinoma in armpit. His body was able to heal because I removed waste. Body is intelligent. He lost weight, stopped shedding, gained energy and sprints and jumps up like I’ve never seen him before.

    That is why I agree with Sharon on her choice (if you must) of grain free dog food plus raw. Raw is what kept him healthy.

    Any dog food company that tests their chemicals (or contains chemicals in it in general!) on the same dogs they’re trying to sell the food to and consistently spraying them with bleach is in the business of making them sick not well. It is appalling to hear vets recommend such brands as Iams, Hills, Purina, Canjn, etc. Hills just got in hot water with Vitamin D overdose and admitted they used ***third party*** manufacturer with no inspection to produce and bag food for them. Most of them don’t have any control over production! Who is really making the kibble? All kibble is dead food made for profit in my opinion. Proper feeding is not scary or expensive. ***It’s a lot more expensive to go to the vet or pay for surgery …. Or even lose your best friend in the end!

    Also common but little known fact is that most important vitamins and minerals needed by a dog’s body is contained in raw organ meats. They need Phosphorus and Calcium from bone. When we cook/heat meat, it loses most vitamins and minerals. In my opinion, it is vital to feed raw.

    True, they do not need protein daily. It can also make them sick. Therefore, alternating with fruit and veggie days (as they would in the wild) to me is ideal diet. My pup is my witness!

  10. So glad I started a home cooked diet for my dog especially after finding out he had copper storage disease. Many of the things in the kibble today have so many foods in there that is high in copper and recently there is no guidelines for how much copper can be put in the food either. Its very sad for owners of pups and cats thinking they are doing right by them with all these additives that the dog food industry says is good for them and really isn’t!

  11. Still confused as to what to feed. Took our husky mix (other part wolf we were told) to vet today for a back issue plus asked about diet because son recently learned about the grain free food dogfood issue. She’s almost 5, and for past 3-1/2 yrs been feeding her Blue Wilderness grain free. Well, she has a heart murmur. What the heck!!! The only dry foods reco’d in the DCM handout are Hill’s Science Diet, Eukanuba, Purina and Royal Canin. Son thinks we need to switch to raw. Am concerned that since they don’t know what is causing it then perhaps some additive might be in the reco’d brands. We had so many dogs over the years, and the only one ever with a heart issue had heartworms so… They ate purina cheap food and table scraps. Now we buy something supposed to be better for them, and a young dog (yes 4 is young) that was always a bundle of energy now has a heart murmur? So I suppose I should take her to a cardiologist so she can be addee to the long list of dogs not previously prone to heart issues that were fed grain free? This girl is smart as a human and a member of our family, and we shouldn’t have to lose her because of the wrong dogfood choice! For heavens sakes! Sorry, but same day I learned of this and am very disappointed in the dogfood safety.