As I have written before, many dogs and cats have developed life-threatening heart problems from eating grain-free diets. Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a serious heart condition in which the heart muscles deteriorate leaving a flabby, thin-walled heart. Heart muscle requires the amino acid taurine for good health. In the early 1990’s, many cats were diagnosed with DCM due to taurine deficient diets. Since dogs can manufacture taurine from two other amino acids, cystine and methionine, DCM caused by taurine deficiency was not seen back then. Instead, a genetic form was seen in the Doberman Pinscher, Great Dane and Irish Wolfhound breeds. All of that changed when “grain-free” diets for dogs and cats became popular. Suddenly, breeds of dogs like Golden Retrievers as well as mixed breeds started getting DCM. Blood tests revealed it was due to taurine deficiency.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) started collecting information on dogs and cats who developed dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) after eating foods labeled “grain-free” in 2014. They received reports on 515 dogs and 9 cats from January 1, 2014 to April 30, 2019. Since some of these families had multiple pets eating the same food, the number of individual affected dogs was 560 and cats was 14. Unfortunately, even with treatment, 119 dogs and 5 cats died. Here is a list of the brands of dog food most frequently associated with DCM from taurine deficiency. It was compiled from a graph provided by the FDA titled, “Dog Food Brands Named Most Frequently in DCM Cases Reported to FDA”.
- Acana – 67 cases
- Zignature – 64 cases
- Taste of the Wild – 53 cases
- 4Health – 32 cases
- Earthborn Holistic – 32 cases
- Blue Buffalo – 31 cases
- Nature’s Domain – 29 cases
- Fromm – 24 cases
- Merrick – 16 cases
- California Natural – 15 cases
- Natural Balance – 15 cases
- Orijen – 12 cases
- Nature’s Variety – 11 cases
- NutriSource – 10 cases
- Nutro – 10 cases
- Rachael Ray Nutrish – 10 cases
The FDA checked the labels to make sure they were “grain-free” meaning the diet did not contain corn, soy, wheat, rice, barley or other grains. They also checked to see what characteristics the diets listed above had in common. These foods were grain-free and contained peas, lentils, sweet potatoes and/or potatoes. If your pet is eating a grain-free food please watch for the following signs of heart disease: lethargy, coughing, heavy breathing and fainting. If observed, seek veterinary care immediately.
‘FDA Investigation into Potential Link between Certain Diets and Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy’ FDA.gov, Animal & Veterinary Section, Updated June 27, 2019