1. What is dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)? a. Dilated cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle that decreases the ability of the heart to generate enough pressure to pump blood through the vascular system. The walls of the heart become thin and the chambers of the heart become enlarged.
2. Can a grain-free diet cause DCM? a. We don’t know, yet. Veterinary cardiologists started noticing an increase in the number of young dogs being diagnosed with DCM in 2017. This prompted an investigation into their diets. Some trends they found were many (not all) of these dogs were on grain-free diets, diets high in legumes (peas, lentils, chickpeas, pinto, etc.), and/or diets with an exotic protein source such as bison or kangaroo.
3. Can I feed a home-cooked, raw diet? a. Even home-cooked and raw diets were identified in these cases.
4. Are there certain ingredients or manufacturers I should avoid? a. We don’t know, yet. The research is ongoing. Not all diets that contain legumes are bad if they are formulated properly. However, not all companies have performed the research to ensure that their diets are fully digestible given the ingredients and amount of ingredients included. b. Certain manufactures were identified as predominating in the number of cases of DCM. However, this does not mean that they are worse than others that are lower on the list. These companies may be better at marketing; thus a greater number of dogs are on the diets.
5. I heard taurine deficiency could be the cause. If I add more taurine, is that enough? a. Some dogs that were diagnosed with DCM were deficient in taurine but the majority (~90%) were not. Of the dogs that were deficient, many had improvement with clinical signs and heart changes when their previous diets were changed and taurine supplemented. Certain breeds are known to be predisposed to taurine deficiencies which may contribute to DCM.
6. What diet should I feed? a. Unless your dog has an allergy to certain grains, feed a diet that includes grain. This may include barley, rice, oats, etc. There is no evidence that grain-free diets are healthier. b. Avoid exotic meats such as bison, kangaroo, etc. c. Diets that have been analyzed for content will contain the statement: “(Name of Product) is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO dog food nutrient profiles.” AAFCO stands for Association of American Feed Control Officials. Note: Prescription diets may not have this statement due to specific requirements the diet was prescribed for.