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FDA: Premium Dog Foods May Be Linked To Canine Heart Disease

Some premium dog food brands may present a higher risk of heart disease for some dogs, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA identified 16 brands of dog food with links to dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), which enlarges the heart muscle and causes weakness and respiratory issues, after studying 500 cases of DCM and dietary habits, according to CNN.

The top three brands are Acana, Zignature, and Taste of the Wild, according to the FDA, but the list is a who’s who of “natural” and premium dog foods.

Dog Food Brands Named Most Frequently in DCM Cases Reported to FDA. Graph shows the dog food brands most frequently named in reports of DCM submitted to FDA. Acana 67; Zignature 64; Taste of the Wild 53; 4Health 32; Earthborn Holistic 32; Blue Buffalo 31; Nature’s Domain 29; Fromm 24; Merrick 16; California Natural 15; Natural Balance 15; Orijen 12; Nature’s Variety 11; NutriSource 10; Nutro 10; Rachael Ray Nutrish 10

The dog foods most prevalent in the diet of afflicted dogs were labeled “grain-free” and contained high levels of peas and/or lentils. More than 90 percent of products were “grain-free”, and 93 percent of reported products had peas and/or lentils – noticeably absent from the top ingredients are animal proteins and dogs are carnivores.

DCM Cases: Ingredients or Characteristics of Reported Diets (%) 1/1/14 – 4/30/19. Graph shows the percentage of diets in the DCM cases reported to FDA that have certain ingredients or characteristics. Grain-free 91%; Peas and/or Lentils 93%; Peas 89%; Lentils 62%; Potatoes/Sweet Potatoes 42%

Golden Retrievers

Past publications and research suggest that Golden Retrievers may be genetically predisposed to taurine deficiency, which is well-documented as potentially leading to DCM and the breed was the most frequently reported to the FDA for DCM.

DCM Reports to FDA - Most frequently reported dog breeds. Graph shows number of DCM reports for the most frequently reported dog breeds. Golden Retriever 95; Mixed 62; Labrador Retriever 47; Great Dane 25; Pit Bull 23; German Shepherd Dog 19; Doberman Pinscher 15; Australian Shepherd 13; Unknown 13; Boxer 11; Mastiff 8; German Short-haired Pointer 7; Shetland Sheepdog 7; Weimaraner 7; American Bulldog 6; American Cocker Spaniel 6; Standard Poodle 6; Bulldog 5; Shih Tzu 5

Veterinary cardiologist Dr. Joshua Stern from the University of California at Davis has been studying the rise in cases of DCM in Golden Retrievers, including a potential dietary link. Many cases of DCM in Golden Retrievers are taurine-deficient. Pet owners who suspect their Golden Retrievers may be affected may wish to consult their veterinarian to discuss checking taurine levels or conducting an echocardiogram.

Taurine-high meats and/or supplements can be added to a pet’s diet to correct the imbalance.

What the FDA Says

“We know it can be devastating to suddenly learn that your previously healthy pet has a potentially life-threatening disease like DCM. That’s why the FDA is committed to continuing our collaborative scientific investigation into the possible link between DCM and certain pet foods,” Dr. Steven M. Solomon, director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, said in a statement.

While the FDA research shows some correlation between the listed brands and the disease, the agency has not yet established causation, and is not requesting that the listed products be recalled.

“We have shared case report information with these firms so they can make informed decisions about the marketing and formulation of their products,” said the FDA, along with encouraging owners to discuss the findings with their veterinarians.

The FDA encourages dog owners to seek immediate treatment if their pet collapses or exhibits sign of weakness and says that DCM can be treated with diet and exercise if caught early enough.

Complete List of Dog Food Associated With Canine Heart Disease:

For the complete list of dog foods revealed by the study, see the list here.

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