Update: Cardiac Concerns with Grain-free Diets for Dogs

In July of 2018, the Food and Drug Administration issued an urgent warning to pet owners stating that grain-free diets may be hazardous to your dog’s health. The evidence is inconclusive – but growing – that use of some grain-free pet foods may be linked to a potentially fatal illness called canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). In particular, the warning targets dog foods that list legumes (like peas or lentils) or potatoes as a main ingredient. The FDA has not issued any specific recommendations for pet owners aside from consulting with their family veterinarian and/or a veterinary nutritionist, but there are several factors that you should consider before deciding on a course of action.

Does your dog’s food fall under the FDA’s warning?It might if the main ingredients include peas,  lentils, beans, chickpeas, soybeans, peanuts, or potatoes [changed the listing order of this sentence]. It is important to note that rice-based foods are not considered a cause for concern. At this time, the FDA does not know what exactly about these foods may be leading to DCM. (See the study conducted at the University of California, Davis)

What are the warning signs of DCM? This is a disease any dog can develop, but it is historically more common among large breeds like Boxers, Great Danes, Newfoundlands, Irish Wolfhounds, Saint Bernards and Doberman Pinschers. It is a disease of the dog’s heart muscle that results in an enlarged heart and, in the later stages, congestive heart failure. Some warning signs that your dog is having heart trouble are: decreased energy, coughing, difficulty breathing and/or collapsing. These signs may indicate a serious problem, but in dogs that are not genetically predisposed to DCM, treatment may significantly improve heart function. The key, though, is early intervention, so if your dog is showing these symptoms be sure to make an appointment with your vet.

What should you do if your dog is on a grain-free diet? It’s best to discuss this with your vet; right now the FDA is not issuing any recommendations to pet owners other than to be alert. Drastic changes to your dog’s diet for any reason can lead to an upset stomach at the very least, so we recommend a cautious approach. As omnivorous creatures, it is perfectly normal and healthy for dogs to eat grains; absent any underlying medical condition, there’s no nutritional reason to have your dog on a grain-free diet. All of these are questions you should raise and discuss with your vet.

The FDA update, which includes a list of the most commonly reported dog food brands, is linked below:


Should you have any questions, comments or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us by phone at 845-876-6008, or by e-mail at info@rhinebeckanimalhospital.com.

Thank you for choosing us to be part of your pet’s healthcare team!

With warmest regards,
Your friends at Rhinebeck Animal Hospital

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