Grain-Free Diets and Heart Disease

Grain-Free Diets and Heart Disease

Grain Free - 1st photo

There is an interesting phenomenon that’s been happening in pet food in the last decade. Many dietary movements happening in human nutrition are being mirrored by pet foods. One such trend is the fear of the grain! As grain-free pet food diets increased in popularity, unfortunately so did incident rates of a condition called Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). In fact, so many cases of DCM have been reported by veterinarians in recent years that the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has stepped in to caution the public and recently launched an official investigation. What is DCM exactly? DCM is a heart condition that is characterized by a weakening and stretching of the heart chambers. The word “dilated” refers to the thinning and stretching of the ventricles, which causes the heart (“cardio”) to weaken (“myopathy”). In the  In the early stages, there are no signs of cardiomyopathy but generally, over the time, the heart struggles to do its job and will eventually fail without treatment. Even with treatment, life expectancies are generally significantly shortened.

Grain Free - 2nd photo

So what does a grain-free diet have to do with DCM? Well, taurine is an amino acid that is found in abundance in grains. Among its many critical jobs, taurine is responsible for maintaining the healthy development and maintenance of the smooth muscles in the body (this includes the heart). Without adequate levels of taurine, the body cannot fulfil its most basic functions, especially those pertaining to cardiovascular function. This information is not new, not even in the veterinary community. In fact, several animal studies conducted in the 1980s established baseline levels of taurine in both dog and cat foods that are required to maintain cardiovascular health. Despite these studies, the growing trend into grain-free diets exploded. Alongside this trend, an unusually high number of DCM cases have been reported, with Golden Retrievers and other large breeds seemingly more affected. So, are grain-free diets the cause of the increase in DCM cases? We honestly don’t know. At least not until more information is released from the FDA. At present, the FDA cautions the public to be critical of BEG diets; that is, any boutique, exotic, and grain-free diets. If you’re concerned about your pet’s nutrition, call us today! We’re here to help!

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