In July 2018 and June 2019, the FDA released reports about investigations into grain-free foods causing a serious condition known as Dilated Cardiomyopathy. I've had private conversations with many of you about the issue. My biggest concern about the controversy was that the information was presented in a misleading and sensationalized manner that caused fear and panic for you. I have intentionally remained publicly silent about this issue but a new report published in the June 2020 issue of Journal of Animal Science provides a very well researched study validating what many in my industry have believed.
Let me start with a brief history of this issue. On June 4, 2018, Dr. Lisa Freeman of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, published “A broken heart: Risk of heart disease in boutique or grain-free diets and exotic ingredients”. Just over a month later on July 12, 2018, the FDA announced it was launching an investigation into the potential connection between diet and DCM. Then the news reports started creating all sorts of panic. On December 1, 2018 an article was published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association raising concerns about a potential link between diet and dilated cardiomyopathy. The JAVMA is a prestigious peer reviewed journal. However, when you review the article, it is clearly labeled as commentary and the authors disclosed they had received “research support”, “consulted with” and “given sponsored talks” for Aratana Therapeutics, Hill’s Pet Nutrition and Nestle’ Purina PetCare. Dr. Lisa Freeman was the principle author of this article.
On June 27, 2019 the FDA released an update on the ongoing investigation. Even though the FDA stated “that the potential association between diet and DCM in dogs is a complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors”, the FDA named names of suspect manufacturers in an unprecedented move. Once again, there were all sorts of scary news reports. I had panicked calls from customers. There were posts all over Facebook of press releases from veterinarians telling their clients not to feed those foods. There was even a small manufacturer that closed their doors because of all the panic. All of this occurred even though there was no definitive link between diet and DCM.
In June, 2020 another article on the issue was published in the Journal of Animal Science. You will probably not see any press on this article but I found it to be well researched and documented. The authors comment on the many different causes of DCM and state that each variable should be studied individually to avoid bias. The report is very heavy reading but it is thorough in looking at all various contributing factors. From the conclusion of Review of canine dilated cardiomyopathy in the wake of diet-associated concerns:
“The use of the acronym “BEG” and its association with DCM are without merit because there is no definitive evidence in the literature. At this time, information distributed to the veterinary community and the general public has been abbreviated synopses of case studies, with multiple variables and treatments, incomplete medical information, and conflicting medical data and opinions from veterinary nutrition influencers. Also, in past literature, sampling bias, overrepresentation of subgroups, and confounding variables in the data weaken this hypothesis. Additionally, based on current literature, the incidence of DCM in the overall dog population is estimated to be between 0.5% and 1.3% in the United States. However, the FDA case numbers (560 dogs) are well below the estimated prevalence. Therefore, it is impossible to draw any definitive conclusions, in these cases, linking specific diets or specific ingredients to DCM.”
DCM is a
complicated disease with many contributing factors including genetics,
infections, endocrine disease, toxins and nutritional deficiencies. As pet parents, we want to provide the best
diet we can afford. It is a personal
decision on whether or not you choose to feed grain free or grain in
foods. I just ask that you make as
informed a decision as possible based on your own research. I’m including links for all the articles
referenced along with others that present alternate views. If you have any questions, I am more than
happy to help you make an informed choice in relation to your pet’s diet.
“A broken heart: Risk of heart disease in boutique or grain-free diets and exotic ingredients”, June 4, 2018
Initial FDA Report – July 12, 2018
“Diet associated dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs: what do we know?” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical AssociationDecember 1, 2018, Vol. 253, No. 11, Pages 1390-1394
FDA Update, June 27, 2019
“Review of canine dilated cardiomyopathy in the wake of diet-associated concerns” Journal of Animal Science, 2020, 1-20,
Responses from Holistic Veterinarians and Manufacturers
“Dilated Cardiomyopathy (heart disease) in Dogs and Why Some Dogs Eat “Exotic” Ingredients”, W. Jean Dodds, DVM, January 6, 2019
“FDA, DCM and Grain-free Diets” Melissa Magnuson, DVM, June 30, 2019
“Bad Science and Financial Conflicts of Interest Plague the FDA’s Investigation into “Grain-Free” Pet Foods and Dilated Cardiomyopathy” – July 26,2019