Grain free diets and its association with heart disease in dogs has recently made the news. Last week the US FDA made an announcement to alert pet owners and veterinarians about reports of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs fed grain free diets. DCM is a serious and often life limiting disease of the heart.

Read the full report on FDA investigation of potential link between certain diets and canine dilated cardiomyopathy

The FDA started investigating this association between diet and DCM in July 2018 when veterinary cardiologists and veterinarians were reporting increased cases of Golden Retrievers with DCM and in dogs of breeds typically not thought to be prone to this condition. It was subjectively noted that these dogs seemed to be frequently eating diets labelled as “grain free”, particularly diets high in lentils or peas.

Below is a chart from the FDA report of the dog food brands being fed to the dogs with the reported DCM cases

Dog Food Brands Names Most Frequently to DCM Cases Reported to FDA


Although there appears to be an association between DCM and feeding grain free diets in dogs, a cause-and-effect relationship has not been proven, and other factors may be equally or more important.

The complexity of pet food manufacturing is often underestimated. Pet foods not only have to contain all the required nutrients, but they also need to contain them in the right amounts and in the right proportions. The amount of the vitamin and mineral actually available and absorbable to the pet can be affected by multiple factors such as the interactions with the other ingredients in the food, genetic variations in the breeds and individual pets, and the degree of processing or non processing of the food.

Research is currently underway at multiple veterinary universities such as UC David and Tufts to sort out the cause of the increase in DCM and the exact role that diet plays in the development of this disease This research will undoubtedly take several years to sort out with conclusive results yet to be determined.

I am often asked by clients which dog food is best. There is not one best brand of dog food. I do stand behind the veterinary brands that we carry at Amherst Veterinary Hospital as their diets are based on scientific research and clinical feeding trials which are conducted under the direction of a number of veterinary specialists in disciplines such as nutrition and internal medicine.

If you are worried about heart disease or would like to discuss specific diet options for your pet, please give Amherst Veterinary Hospital a call at 604-221-7771.

Dr. Loretta Yuen

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