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Diet and Heart Disease

Diet and Heart Disease

Recent research from Tufts University, UC Davis, and others has shown a possible correlation between certain so-called “BEG” diets (Boutique, Exotic Ingredient, Grain-Free) and Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM).

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)

DCM is a condition in which the heart becomes weak and enlarged. Early symptoms include fatigue or respiratory signs (such as coughing). Often there are no symptoms at all. However, dogs may have symptoms as severe as trouble breathing, lethargy, persistent coughing, or collapse. An echocardiogram (heart ultrasound) is the only definitive way to diagnose DCM.

What We Know

Diets that show the highest correlation with DCM are those from smaller, “boutique” companies with either exotic/non-traditional ingredients and/or no grains. Specifically, diets with peas, legumes (lentils, beans, chickpeas, etc.), and sweet and white potatoes within the first 5 ingredients appear to pose the greatest risk*. There may be a problem with taurine, an amino acid important for heart strength, although a specific scientific cause and effect has not yet been proven. Testing for taurine may or may not prove useful.

The FDA recently released a report listing 16 commercial dog food brands most frequently associated with diet-related DCM: Acana, Zignature, Taste of the Wild, 4Health, Earthborn Holistic, Blue Buffalo, Nature’s Domain, Fromm, Merrick, California Natural, Natural Balance, Orijen, Nature’s Variety, Nutrisource, Nutro, Rachel Ray Nutrish**.

What Should I Do?

As a safety precaution, Tufts University and UC Davis have advised to feed dogs a traditional, non-grain free diet without peas, legumes, or any kind of potatoes in the first 5 ingredients. They have also recommended feeding diets from the top manufacturers that do the most research on their products: Purina, Hill’s, Royal Canin, and Eukanuba. A board-certified veterinary nutritionist can also help in constructing a diet best suited for your pet.

What if My Dog Has Allergies/Special Needs?

We highly encourage discussing specific dietary requirements with your regular veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist. You can find board-certified veterinary nutritionists at acvn.org/directory.

*A broken heart: Risk of heart disease in boutique or grain-free diets and exotic ingredients
**FDA Investigation into Potential Link between Certain Diets and Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Additional Resources

Cardiology Service Updates: Dog Food & Dilated Cardiomyopathy

June 27, 2019: Update: FDA names 16 diets that may be linked to canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy.

Frequently Requested Information Regarding Taurine & Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Golden Retrievers

Information from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine