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Grain Free Dog Food Heart Failure

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Did Industry Funding Influence An Fda Investigation Into Canine Heart Disease And Grain

Grain free dog foods linked to heart failure

By Helen Santoro

In 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, acting on input from a group of veterinary researchers, began investigating whether the increasing popularity of grain-free dog foods had led to a sudden rise in a potentially fatal heart disease in dogs, dilated cardiomyopathy.

Four years later, the FDA has found no firm link between diet and dilated cardiomyopathy. Nor has it rejected such a link, and the research is ongoing. Publicity surrounding the suspected link, nevertheless, has driven down the once-promising market for grain-free dog foods.

Furthermore, a tangled web of pet food industry funding and interests may have influenced the origin, data collection and course of the FDA study, according to an examination of internal FDA records and extensive reporting.

A six-month investigation by 100Reporters has found that veterinarians who prompted the FDA to consider diet have financial and other ties to the leading sellers of grain-inclusive pet foods. Additionally, agency records show that for the initial study, some vets were instructed to submit only dilated cardiomyopathy cases that implicated grain-free, exotic or boutique pet foods. Suppliers of ingredients used in grain-free dog foods have also exerted pressure on the FDA to protect their market.

Frozen Banana Berry Treats

These are perfect for those hot summer days. They only have 2 ingredients, plus no chemicals or artificial flavors.

Since they are bite-sized, that means no mess to clean up afterward!


  • 12 Frozen Organic Blueberries OR 2 Frozen Organic Strawberries.


Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place it to the side. Combine both ingredients into a blender and pulse until they are broken down.

It doesnt need to be completely smooth, but just enough so there are not huge pieces.

Pour the mixture into an icing bag . Gently squeeze dime-sized portions onto the parchment paper then place in the freezer for at least 4 hours.

When they are completely frozen, you can either give a couple to your dog or transfer them to an airtight container for storage.

The Evolution Of ‘puppy Dog Eyes’

Generally when dogs develop a food allergy, its to a protein, Gelzer said. So, veterinarians will often switch to a food with a different protein source to treat the problem.

One of the big problems with DCM is that dogs dont show symptoms of the disease lethargy, exercise intolerance, shortness of breath until theyre very sick, Gelzer said.

She points to the example of clients who came in with a very sick dog that was diagnosed with DCM. The family had a second dog that seemed healthy, but because both were eating a grain-free dog food, Gelzer suggested bringing in the second dog to be checked.

What we dont know is if used in these diets in place of grains are causing the problem. Its also possible that could be some kind of toxin.

When we evaluated that dog, it also had decreased heart function, but it was still subclinical, she said. The dog didnt look abnormal because it was at an early stage.

Also Check: How To Slow Down Heart Rate When Nervous

Things You Can Do Right Nowto Lower Your Dogs Risk

Until the FDA completes its study and releases its final report

The Dog Food Advisor believes it makes sense to apply science and logic to all your feeding decisions.

So, consider these practical tips

  • Since compared to meat, vegetable protein tends to be incomplete , you may wish to favor recipes that derive most of their protein from animal sources
  • Dont avoid any recipe just because it contains peas or legumes. Pay attention to the amount, too. The number of suspect items and their relative position on the ingredients list may prove to be more important.
  • Favor recipes that dont list pea protein or other plant protein concentrates among their first few ingredients
  • Avoid recipes that use ingredient splitting to hide the fact that their formulas are dominated by plant-based meat protein substitutes
  • Confused about grain-free? Consider switching your dog to a quality food that contains grain
  • Focus on the recipe. Not the brand. To satisfy consumer demand, companies sometimes replace the meat in certain products with cheaper, plant protein alternatives. Yet many brands still offer other recipes with superior, meat-rich designs
  • Dont put all your eggs in one basket. Diversify. Since no dog food can ever be perfect, consider using diet rotation to lower the risk of endlessly feeding your pet the same imperfect product
  • Want more choices? Consider switching your dogs current diet to one of the many found on our best dog foods lists
  • Feeding Trials Do Not Mean It’s Safethey’re Overrated


    Veterinary schools teach that AAFCO feeding trials are the “gold standard” for proving the nutritional adequacy of a dog food. Narrator: They are not. Judge for yourself: In an AAFCO feeding trial, 8 dogs eat the food in question for 6 months. Basic blood work is taken before and after. If 6 of the 8 dogs have normal blood work and pass a routine exam, the food passes the trial. To us, that doesn’t prove much of anything, at least not scientifically. Imagine if pharmaceuticals were tested this way? 6 of 8 dogs basically need to simply survive the food for a few months?

    Specific to DCM, since nearly all feeding trials are conducted using specially bred beagles, it’s unlikely they would find DCM beagles were not among the 25 dog breeds identified by the FDA as being most commonly diagnosed. Not to mention, given the relatively low incidence of DCM, and the fact that it may take several years to develop, again, it is unlikely to be revealed in a feeding trial of a mere 8 dogs lasting 6 months.

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    Grain Free Homemade Dog Food

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  • Place carrots in blender along with coconut chips, blending to a fine chop.
  • In a medium bowl, add carrot-coconut chip mixture, eggs, and flour.
  • Stir until mixed completely.
  • Use a spoon or melon baller to scoop out about a tablespoon dough drop onto cookie sheet.
  • Flatten lightly with a fork.
  • Bake cookies for 40 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Cool completely before serving or refrigerating.
  • Refrigerate for 5 days or freeze in an airtight container for up to 6 months.
  • Why Does Kibble Have So Much Starch In It

    Due to way it’s manufactured,kibble requires a relatively high amount of starch in order to make the pieces stick together.In fact, most kibble needs to beless than25% fresh meat andat least25% starch.So whether it’s wheat, peas, corn, or sweet potatoes, in order to make cost effective foods, dog food companies need to use a lot of protein-rich starches. In addition to binding the food together, they’re much cheaper than meat. The problem is that these starches may contain compounds that interfere with the absorption of other nutrients. They’re called “anti-nutrients.”

    Also Check: Female Heart Attack Sumptoms

    Fda Revision #: It’s Not Limited To Dry Foods

    The vast majority of dogs eat traditional dry food that is “hot extruded” . Since non-kibble foods are so rare, it took a while for them to show up in the data, but the FDA has found conclusive evidence of DCM in dogs fed virtually all form factors of dog food: home made, raw, canned, freeze-dried, refrigerated and frozen. So the processing method is unlikely to be the root cause, it’s more likely related to the ingredients.

    Why Is The Fda Investigating Grain

    Dog with heart disease showing improvements after switching from grain-free diet

    It is easy to panic anytime we see an FDA headline about pet food. After all, keeping our dogs healthy is essential to us, and we know that diet can make a big difference in a dogs well-being. We reached out to Dr. Jerry Klein, the Chief Veterinary Officer of the AKC, to hear his thoughts on the ongoing FDA investigation.

    The FDA is investigating a potential dietary link between canine dilated cardiomyopathy and dogs eating certain grain-free dog foods. The foods of concern are those containing legumes such as peas or lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes listed as primary ingredients. The FDA began investigating this matter after it received reports of DCM in dogs that had been eating these diets for a period of months to years. DCM itself is not considered rare in dogs, but these reports are unusual because the disease occurred in breeds of dogs not typically prone to the disease.

    Between January 1, 2014 and April 30, 2019, the FDA received 524 reports of DCM , and most reports were submitted after the FDAs first public alert in July 2018. The total number of pets affected is greater than 524 because some reports included multi-pet households.

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    Peanut Butter Dog Bone Filling

    This is the perfect peanut butter dog bone filling if you dont want to get a store-bought bone filling. It is not runny and wont drip out.

    It also doesnt have any of those mysterious ingredients found in the store-bought filling.


    • Measurements depend on the size of the bone


    Combine the ingredients in a small bowl and stir together until you dont see the flour.

    If you feel it is too runny, add more flour, but be sure not to use too much or it will be too crumbly.

    Take a spoon or an icing knife and stuff the mixture into your dogs bone.

    You can put it in the freezer so they can enjoy it longer or serve it at room temperature. Either way, your dog will love it!

    Also Check: What Are The Worst Dog Food Brands

    Ground White Meat Turkey

    You may have noticed that turkey is a common ingredient in dog treats and dog food. Thoroughly cooked and drained ground white meat turkey, as long as its plain and has no additives or salt, is perfectly healthy for dogs. However, there are some parts of the turkey you should never feed to your pup. Obviously, never feed your dog turkey bones as they can splinter and cause serious problems for them. Also, the fat in turkey skin may cause pancreatitis, a condition in which the pancreas becomes inflamed and swollen, so you do not want to feed them the skin either. The seasoning added to pre-cooked store bought turkey and deli meat usually contains onion and garlic which can irritate your dogs bowels and cause serious digestive issues, such as vomiting and diarrhea.

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    Does The Manufacturing Process Cause Dcm

    Even if all ingredients are present in the right amount, during processing some valuable nutrients can be lost. Unfortunately, pet food manufacturers arent required by law to test the food after the processing.

    Despite that, few larger companies do that anyway and manage to exercise rigorous quality control. However, there is a lot of brands that dont have adequate nutritional expertise and recourses to test the food properly.

    This means, that there is no telling if a dog is for sure eating a complete and balanced diet, which in turn can lead to nutrient deficiencies. It is thought that some sort of deficiency is causing dogs to develop DCM.

    Grain Free Diets And The Possible Link To Heart Disease

    Fromm Dog Food Grain Free Heart

    Pet owners and Veterinarians around the world, have recently been warned by the FDA that dogs fed grain-free food diets, is possibly being linked to an unusual condition that can cause an enlarged heart.

    Heart disease is common in our pets, affecting 10-15% of all dogs and cats, with even higher rates in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Doberman Pinschers, and Boxers. Most nutritional recommendations focus on treating dogs and cats with heart disease and there is much less information on the role of diet in causing heart disease. However, a recent increase in heart disease in dogs eating certain types of diets may shed light on the role of diet in causing heart disease. It appears that diet may be increasing dogs risk for heart disease because owners have fallen victim to the many myths and misconceptions about pet food.

    Its important that all owners discuss their pets nutritional requirements with their Veterinarian says Dr. Scott Campbell one of Ipswich Vet Groups Partners and a Diplomate of the American College in Small Animal Nutrition.

    It might be down to a nutritional deficiency, the FDA said.

    Although not yet naming specific brands, it is believed all grain free diets may be a risk that mainly include peas, potatoes, lentils or other legumes as their main ingredients.

    Symptoms include lethargy, weight loss and, sometimes, a cough. Changes in diet, especially for dogs with DCM, should be made in consultation with a licensed veterinarian.

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    Cases Reported To Fda

    For the purposes of this investigation, the FDA defines a case as an illness reported to FDA involving a dog or cat that includes a diagnosis of DCM. Many of the reports submitted to the FDA included extensive clinical information, including echocardiogram results, cardiology/veterinary records, and detailed diet histories. The numbers below only include reports in which the dog or cat was diagnosed with DCM by a veterinarian and/or veterinary cardiologist. We did not include in these numbers the many general cardiac reports submitted to the FDA that did not have a DCM diagnosis. However, this case information is still valuable, as it may show heart changes that occur before a dog develops symptomatic DCM. . Although the FDA first received a few sporadic reports of DCM as early as 2014, the vast majority of the reports were submitted after the agency notified the public about the potential DCM/diet issue in July 2018.

    Veterinary Cardiologists: Does Grainfree Dog Food Cause Heart Disease

    Dog owners concerned about grainfree diets causing heart disease have a professional opinion to help them now thanks to veterinary cardiologists at Washington State Universitys College of Veterinary Medicine.

    The statement from WSU was written in response to an increase in reports recently concerning dogs that were fed grainfree diets. Some reports claim dilated cardiomyopathy may be caused by these newer and often trendy diets which are grain free or contain legumes or exotic proteins. To see the complete statement from WSU, see the WSU VetMed website.

    A suspected cause of DCM is taurine, a type of amino acid and a building block of proteins. Taurine is found in large amounts in the brain, retina, heart, and in blood cells called platelets. It is also an additive to many human energy drinks.

    DCM is a condition in which the heart enlarges and cant pump blood efficiently. It is caused by diseased heart muscle, usually beginning in the main pumping chamber, the left ventricle. While DCM may not be severe enough to cause symptoms, in other cases it can be life threatening even fatal due to an irregular heartbeat and congestive heart failure.

    Recommended Reading: What Causes Your Heart Rate To Be High

    Reports Of Dogs Eating Grain

    After their public notification about grain-free diets and a possible link between DCM, the FDA is still receiving reports. There are many cases still to be examined, and a number of them include breeds that dont have a known genetic predisposition to this condition.

    One of these cases includes two Miniature Schnauzers. Mico and Louie were unrelated, and the only thing they had in common was the home they lived in and the food they ate.

    Louie was the first one to experience symptoms of cough, which was misdiagnosed as bronchitis. A couple of weeks later, Louie stopped eating and had troubles breathing.

    Once in a hospital, it was discovered that Louies heart was enlarged and fluid was filling his lungs. Unfortunately, there wasnt anything left to do for him, and he died.

    Three months later, Mico started to collapse frequently and it was found that he was also struggling with an enlarged heart. Mico has been on heart medication since May 2017 and is doing well now.

    According to reports, the majority of dogs diagnosed with DCM ate dry dog food formulas. However, there are also cases of dogs eating raw food, semi-moist food, and wet food who were diagnosed with DCM.

    Based on the analysis of these reports it was discovered that 90% of these foods were labeled as grain-free. The remaining 10% of dogs ate foods with grains, some of which were vegan or vegetarian.

    Disease Afflicts Unrelated Housemates

    WCCO Special Report: Grain-Free Dog Food Could Cause Heart Disease

    Dr. Teresa DeFrancesco, a professor of cardiology and critical care at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, described in Septembers meeting a retrospective study that compared disease severity and outcomes for patients with DCM and congestive heart failure at the university hospital, grouped by whether they were on grain-free or conventional diets. In an interview with JAVMA News, she said the group on grain-free diets was younger overall, and it included more dogs from breeds without any known genetic predisposition for DCM.

    She said a pair of unrelated Miniature Schnauzers that were on the same lentil-based diet developed DCM within four months of each other in 2017, and they became the hospitals index cases for potential diet-based DCM. The first died despite intensive treatment, but the second became ill as the veterinary community became aware of the potential for diet-related DCM. It survived with treatment and diet change, Dr. DeFrancesco said.

    Because the first Schnauzer died before July 2017, it was excluded from the retrospective study, she said.

    The data also indicate dogs tended to have worse clinical signs the longer they were on grain-free diets, she said. And, among the grain-free diet group, younger patients had worse clinical disease.

    She also wants to tell other veterinarians that nutrition-related cardiomyopathy can be difficult to detect.

    Also Check: How To Measure Heart Rate Variability

    What Is The Concern With Feeding A Grain

    As grain-free pet foods rose in popularity, vets started noticing a potential connection between dogs who were on a grain-free diet and a type of heart disease called canine dilated cardiomyopathy .

    In July 2018, the FDA began working with veterinary nutritionists and veterinary cardiologists to try to determine what might be causing this problem. So far, theyve received more than 500 reports.

    What do veterinarians know so far about grain-free diets causing heart disease in dogs?

    Most of the diets included in the reports are labeled grain-free, and affected pets have typically been eating them for several months or years.

    The diets dont contain wheat, corn, soy, rice, barley, or other grains but do contain a large amount of peas, lentils, other legumes, and/or potatoes in different forms .

    Another similarity is that many of the diets have been from smaller pet food companies.

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