Grain-free Diets and Heart Disease in Dogs

For some years now, grains such as wheat and corn in dog and cat foods have been demonized by many in the alternative medicine world. There has never been any real scientific evidence to support all the hysterical claims about grains as a risk factor for disease, and there is no reason to believe so-called “grain-free” diets have any health benefits at all. Sadly, many pet food companies have chosen to play into this fad by offering such diets and marketing them in ways that suggest they are better for our pets than diets which contain such ingredients. This has led to an increase in potato and taro root and other alternative carbohydrate sources in dog and coat food with no evidence that these are in any way safer or healthier than the much-despised wheat and corn.

I’ve been fairly neutral towards this diet fad. While I have always maintained that the claims about grains are implausible and unsubstantiated, I assumed that as long as the alternative diets met the established nutritional standards for pet foods generally, they were probably no worse than existing diets even if there was no reason to think they were better. I have a natural dislike for pseudoscientific fads, but I still believe in judging claims on the evidence, and without any evidence I refrained from any judgement against such diets.

Earlier this year, however, I saw a couple of golden retrievers with an unusual heart condition, known as Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). This can be caused by a variety of genetic and environmental factors, but these cases were a bit atypical, and after some testing we discovered that these dogs had a deficiency in an amino acid called taurine, which has been associated with DCM. This deficiency is unusual in dogs fed balanced and complete commercial diets, and these dogs were on commercial grain-free diets that supposedly included all necessary nutrients.

Further investigation turned up low taurine levels in some additional dogs of the same breed and on similar diets. Since then, the cardiology and nutrition services at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine have begun investigating the potential link between grain-free diets and DCM in golden retrievers, and potential other breeds. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a notice warning pet owners about the potential that diet, including grain-free diets and those with unusual primary protein sources or other uncommon ingredients, may be a risk factor for this disease, and the national media has begun to raise alarms about this issue.

Dr. Jennifer Larsen, a nutritionist at UC Davis, has written an excellent summary of the nuances of this issue, and she has agreed to let me share some of it here:

Taurine is not required to be present in dog foods. Taurine is an amino acid that is not nutritionally essential for dogs; however, there are dietary factors (such as protein source, fiber type and concentration, and cooking or processing methods) and individual dog characteristics (such as breed and calorie needs) that impact how efficiently taurine may be made and used by the body. The sulfur amino acid content and bioavailability in food is important though. The problem with dietary deficiency-related cardiac disease is multifactorial and is not just seen in goldens.

1- in many grain free diets, legumes are used to provide the carb (starch) but also protein and fiber – you cannot tell which ingredients are providing various proportions of nutrients from an ingredient list

2- legume protein is low in sulfur amino acids (methionine and cystine- the precursors for taurine synthesis)

3- some fiber types/concentrations increase fecal taurine content and promotes bacterial degradation of taurine (dogs and cats must use taurine to conjugate bile acids) so taurine recycling is not as efficient and more is lost

4- dogs need an adequate supply of precursors and to be able to make taurine fast enough to replace obligatory as well as excessive losses. When Newfoundlands and beagles were compared (during the Investigation into the lamb and rice issue with DCM in the 90s), it was found that Newfoundlands made taurine more slowly, so there are differences among breeds and probably individuals

5- dogs with lower than predicted calorie needs (“easy keepers”) also might not eat enough food and therefore enough protein to supply adequate precursors

6- some grain free diets (and other types of diets), are not high in protein (and therefore sulfur amino acids) since they use more expensive exotic or uncommon sources.

Any of these or a combination may impact taurine status in the dog.

There have been recent cases seen in our hospital and elsewhere of dilated cardiomyopathy secondary to taurine deficiency in dogs that have been associated with commercial diets containing certain ingredients (such as legumes – beans, lentils, and peas – and root vegetables – white and sweet potatoes). Data collection and interpretation is ongoing for these recent cases.

In the past we have also seen cases of dilated cardiomyopathy and taurine deficiency in dogs eating home-prepared diets (with either cooked and raw ingredients and those with and without meat), and other commercial diets with various ingredients and nutritional profiles. Some of those cases and investigations have been published (others can be found on PubMed):

Backus RC, Cohen G, Pion PD, Good KL, Rogers QR, Fascetti AJ. Taurine deficiency in Newfoundlands fed commercially available complete and balanced diets. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2003 Oct 15;223(8):1130-6.

Fascetti AJ, Reed JR, Rogers QR, Backus RC. Taurine deficiency in dogs with dilated cardiomyopathy: 12 cases (1997-2001). J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2003 Oct 15;223(8):1137-41.

Tôrres CL, Backus RC, Fascetti AJ, Rogers QR. Taurine status in normal dogs fed a commercial diet associated with taurine deficiency and dilated cardiomyopathy. J Anim Physiol Anim Nutr (Berl). 2003 Oct;87(9-10):359-72.

Bélanger MC, Ouellet M, Queney G, Moreau M. Taurine-deficient dilated cardiomyopathy in a family of golden retrievers. J Am Anim Hosp Assoc. 2005 Sep-Oct;41(5):284-91.

Freeman LM, Michel KE, Brown DJ, Kaplan PM, Stamoulis ME, Rosenthal SL, Keene BW, Rush JE. Idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy in Dalmatians: nine cases (1990-1995). J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1996 Nov 1;209(9):1592-6.

Due to the variable and sometimes incomplete reported diet history information for recently affected dogs, the inability to predict diet performance in any individual from nutritional profile/ingredient information, and lack of proof of causation, it is not possible to identify specific dietary characteristics nor specific products that are or are not recommended at this point.

If you have concerns specific to your own pet, we encourage you to reach out to your primary care veterinarian for guidance, possible testing (which may include a physical exam, blood tests, radiographs and/or an echocardiogram), and dietary recommendations. Taurine status can be assessed by measuring it in blood. Ideally two blood samples are assessed at the same time, and collected *prior to changing the diet or adding supplements*: 1) heparinized whole blood and 2) plasma that has been centrifuged and separated from blood cells immediately after collection.

Bottom Line
Nutrition and metabolism are complicated, and the exact relationship between dietary composition, breed genetics, and other factors leading to DCM is not yet clear. It is too early to say with certainty whether the diets are the primary cause of DCM in these dogs or whether other breeds may also be at risk. However, it is clear that the idea behind the health claims for grain-free diets is speculative at best and very likely untrue. Extreme diet fads hardly ever turn out to be a good idea in people, and the same is probably true for pets.

If you are feeding a grain-free diet, there is no need to panic. If you own a golden retriever or other breed that has been shown to be develop DCM in the past, it makes sense to talk to your vet and potentially have taurine levels tested or other diagnostics done depending on the circumstances. The diet you are feeding may be perfectly fine, but it is also probable not any better than any other diet with more conventional ingredients, and there is now some small indication that it may place some dogs at greater risk for this preventable disease.

The links above to the FDA and UC Davis Vet School will provide more information.

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61 Responses to Grain-free Diets and Heart Disease in Dogs

  1. Pingback: grain free food ingredients related to heart issues - YorkieTalk.com Forums - Yorkshire Terrier Community

  2. Kate says:

    And as vegetarians who have studied protein complementarity know, grains are high in methionine and cysteine and therefore balance the amino acid profile when combined with legumes. But of course, grain-free dog foods don’t do this.

  3. Jemima Harrison says:

    But isn’t the real issue that there isn’t enough meat in some of these diets, rather than a lack of grains?

    I’m not usually one to view “dogs naturally”-type websites as a reliable source of info but this is written by a veterinarian and I am interested to know what may be incorrect in what she writes in terms of the scientific info.

    https://www.onlynaturalpet.com/holistic-healthcare-library/vitamins-nutritional-supplements/113/the-importance-of-taurine-for-dogs-and-cats.aspx

  4. Michael says:

    Written by a veterinarian with no formal credential in nutrition, just a self-professed “expert” and holistic veterinarian. I’d avoid taking her nutritional advice over that of a boarded nutritionist.

  5. Rodman says:

    This will be interesting to see how this plays out over the years. You really have to look long and hard in the food aisles to find non grain free dog foods. Nearly all the food companies have jumped on the “grain free boat”.

    We have a 4 month old Boxer (got him at 8 weeks) and we have been feeding him Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream Puppy which is, of course, grain free. Now I’m worried about the little guy.

  6. Maria says:

    I’ve been waiting for your article on this subject.

    My dog suffered from horrendous allergies, and he tested allergic to wheat, corn and soy, so I had to switch to grain-free commercial foods. It worked, his allergies are now gone, but now this came up. How can I minimize this risk? Maybe buy a food with the less percentage of legumes possible? And with a higher percentage of ingredients rich in taurine, methionine and cystine?

    The commercial grain-free dry dog food with the lowest percentage of legumes I managed to find was Orijen (15% legumes; 85% meat/fish).

    Thanks a lot you for your help!

  7. skeptvet says:

    I’m curious what you mean by “he tested allergic to wheat, corn, and soy.” There are no valid tests for food allergies, only feeding trials to assess response to specific foods.

  8. Maria says:

    My dog was miserable for a couple of years with skin allergies, even eating only Hypoallergenic Royal Canin food (hydrolized proteins). Only steroids would help him. After two years with no permanent solution, his vet suggested a blood test (IgG and IgE). Now I feel that you are going to say that this (btw, very expensive!) test is useless, but it really worked. We switched his diet, and he went from a miserable itchy wounded skin to a perfect shinny coat! Three years have past without any skin problems. It turns out that the Royal Canin Hypoallergenic food has rice, and he tested allergic to rice, which made a lot of sense why that diet did not work for him. Given all this, I am really afraid to switch again to grain-based foods… And that is why I was hoping you could help me find a balanced solution for this…

  9. L says:

    Very expensive? Try about $1000 a year to keep a small dog with environmental allergies comfortable. Treatment is lifelong.
    Allergen specific immunotherapy based on intradermal skin testing (veterinary dermatologist) . Medicated shampoos (sometimes daily) creams for rashes.
    Never had the blood test, allergies were obviously environmental.
    It’s the only thing that helped my dog. No regrets.

  10. Geneva Coats says:

    What veterinarians are certified in nutrition? Probably none.

  11. Janice Bremner says:

    Not true. There are veterinarians that are boarded in nutrition (meaning that after they receive their doctorate of veterinary medicine they pursue a further course of mentored study and research).

  12. Gitte says:

    I guess this makes it a good thing that my dog sometimes manages to steal the cat’s food? He says now he just wants to supplement his taurine requirements…

  13. Christine says:

    As a Canadian pet supply store owner it’s actually very easy to find dry dog food with grains, even in a more boutique store like mine. Fromm has a number of proteins with grains in them (in Canada the bags with grains are a glossy black) and Acana carries a whole line, the Classic Line with, 3 skus that have oats in them.

  14. Dogowner says:

    Surprised you have not been hit by crowds of grain free fanatics.

  15. Texvet says:

    Google American College of Veterinary nutritionists. And this veterinarian certainly knows more than the kid at the pet store selling food.

  16. Mary S says:

    @Maria

    The FDA warning stated that the reported cases were from foods with potatoes and/or legumes as MAIN ingredients, so your 85% meat/15% legumes is probably fine!

    https://www.fda.gov/animalveterinary/newsevents/cvmupdates/ucm613305.htm

    “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is alerting pet owners and veterinary professionals about reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating certain pet foods containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes as MAIN INGREDIENTS.”

    “Diets in cases reported to the FDA frequently list potatoes or multiple legumes such as peas, lentils, other “pulses” (seeds of legumes), and their protein, starch and fiber derivatives early in the ingredient list, indicating that they are MAIN INGREDIENTS.”

    🙂

  17. Jennifer says:

    My own dog recently had her taurine level checked because she has been on a grain free, legume heavy diet for the past 3 years. I am a CVT and like SkeptVet I assumed that the grain free diets were benign. I chose to feed Fromm to my dog simply because she liked it better and was a thin dog and picky eater. I began seeing the research a few months ago and decided to test her even though she was asymptomatic for DCM. Her taurine level was very low. Her case has been reported to the FDA and she is now on a different diet and a taurine supplement. Thanks for posting the comments from Dr Larsen – they were helpful in understanding the mechanism behind this problem.

  18. David says:

    I am assuming these grain free diets are also AAFCO certified – in which case doesn’t that suggest there are serious issues with what AAFCO certification means?

  19. skeptvet says:

    I think the problem is more with what people think certification means. If you understand it to mean that based on current scientific understanding there should be no gross deficiencies or excesses of important nutrients for the vast majority of animals eating a diet, then no problem. If you take it to mean there can never be anything we don’t know or any rare combination of genetic and nutritional circumstances that might lead to disease in a few animals, then it isn’t meeting your standard, but the problem is more with that standard than with the way AAFCO guidelines are developed. Making the perfect the enemy of the very good doesn’t help us take better care of our animals.

  20. art malernee dvm says:

    I am assuming these grain free diets are also AAFCO certified – in which case doesn’t that suggest there are serious issues with what AAFCO certification means?>>>>

    AAfCO allows a range. When the food has almost to much or barely enough of some nutritional requirement within the allowed range, the food becomes a over formulated single source diet and risky. Purina had to go grain free or loose market share but you should try when cooking to hit the middle of the range AACO gives you.

  21. caroline israel says:

    I found this article interesting, and because my dogs are on a home-made high-nutrient vegan diet (primarily pinto beans, oats, carrots, cruciferous veggies, and a supplement for vegan dogs), I am inspired to have their taurine levels checked. At the same time, I found the author’s conclusion, “Extreme diet fads hardly ever turn out to be a good idea in people, and the same is probably true for pets,” curious. I thought to myself, what is NOT extreme about rendered, sterilized, and dried animal ‘by-products’, wheat gluten, textured soy protein, and all the other weird additives on a dog food label? It seems to me that everything we feed our dogs is an extreme deviation to what they would eat in a more natural setting, and the average dog food is no exception.

  22. Jen Robinson says:

    In my limited understanding AAFCO trials don’t last for more than a few months (is this adequate?) . How long would it take to develop a taurine deficiency?

  23. skeptvet says:

    Your conclusion, that conventional diets are “extreme” is founded on the premise that you know what a “natural” diet should be and that it is automatically better than an “artificial” diet. These assumptions aren’t actually correct, and they seem a bit odd coming from someone who feeds a vegan diet, which is hardly “natural” in any sense. Isn’t there a contradiction in this?

  24. skeptvet says:

    Because the development of deficiency and heart disease depend on so many factors (amino acid content of the diet, absorption of precursors and production of taurine, elimination of taurine, cardiac muscle metabolism, etc), there is no general answer to how long a feeding trial would need to last to identify a problem in those dogs who are prone to develop one. Certainly, the trial is likely too short to see this, but longer trials wouldn’t necessarily help unless the diet, breed and age of the dogs, and lots of other variables were also accounted for, which is going to be impractical. AAFCO feeding trials are just a first line test for the most obvious dietary problems, not a guarantee that no dog will develop problems on a given diet.

  25. kelly says:

    Would it be possible to merely add supplementary meat to the diet of a dog that’s doing well on a “grain free” food? My Eskie had considerable diarrhea problems til I finally found a food that agrees with him –TOTW Appalachian Valley; first 2 ingredients are venison & lamb meal…third is garbanzo beans. If i just add some of the meat protein that doesn’t make him ill, would this lower the likelihood of DCM?

    Side question: do dogs get lathyrism? i.e. should I be worried about chickpeas being ingredient #3??

  26. louis says:

    What about grain-based diets with low or very low meat content (like most pet foods sold in supermarkets)? Shouldn’t they be causing this issue too, since they lack animal ingredients (those rich in taurine and percursors)? Or are grains richer than legumes in these nutrients?

  27. L says:

    From what I understand dogs naturally make taurine (cats don’t)
    Something about the diet being high in legumes/potatoes blocks dog’s ability to do so?
    I always add a little boiled chicken meat or boiled egg to the kibble plus water.
    That way I know they are getting protein for sure.
    I went back to a grain inclusive kibble (Fromm Classic Adult) for now to be on the safe side, till we see the results of the investigation reveal.
    I could be wrong :-/ Let’s see what the vets say.

  28. skeptvet says:

    Simply adding meat isn’t necessarily going to prevent taurine deficiency since the cause is complex, having to do with the amounts of different amino acid precursors, the presence of ingredients that might increase loss of taurine, genetics, etc. Most grain-free diets have the necessary amino acids on paper, but the cause of the problem is more complicated than that. Ideally, if you’re concerned, I would have taurine levels in your dog measured. If they are normal, there is nothing to do, and if they are low then a diet change or taurine supplementation might be appropriate.

    Lathyrism isn’t going to be a problem with this kind of diet.

  29. skeptvet says:

    Meat is not the only source of sulfur-containing amino acids, so dogs can get all they need form plant sources as well if the diet is properly formulated. Again, there are a number of variables at play besides the presence or absence of grains, so we will have to wait for more data before we know precisely what is happening here.

  30. Louis says:

    Yes, I understand that, but the low meat content in grain-free diets seems to be one of the main culprits, because the FDA refers that the problem is only with grain-free diets with legumes as main ingredients. So, basically, the problem with these grain-free foods is not the lack of grains per se, but rather the lack of grains TOGETHER WITH the low content of meat. Or else all grain-free foods would be problematic and not only the legume-heavy ones. Am I wrong?

  31. Lynne says:

    Adding cook meat won’t help up the Taurine in your dogs diet, when you cook meat like dry kibble cooking meat (kibble) destroys up to 2/3 of the taurine content in foods. Add raw beef hearts, tin sardines are good to add to your dogs kibble, just add 2 spoons on to 1 of your dog dry kibble meal….
    Recent studies by Delaney et al, have prompted new insights into the
    possible relation between taurine deficiency in dogs and diets containing whole-grain rice, rice bran or barley, and lamb meal, its not just grain free dry foods.
    Here’s the Link in Golden Retriever
    https://www.dropbox.com/sh/zpqq66i3w2twy7e/AADcuRPcpOOBkewPtXf7SAdSa?dl=0

  32. kelly howard says:

    skeptvet
    thank you for reply & links! Somehow I suspected it wouldn’t be as simple as merely adding meat. *sigh*
    Seems possible that changing a different food or adding a 2nd type of food, or a multi-vite, might be a way of –hopefully– avoiding the problem to start with (?). My boy already has some health issues that are under control so far, but I’d rather avoid another if I can possibly help it.

  33. skeptvet says:

    Cooking is not the problem! The vast majority of commercial diets and homemade diets are cooked and they contain more than adequate levels of taurine and other amino acids to prevent this problem. These particular diets differ in ways other than being cooked from diets which do not raise the risk of deficiency, so it is possible to prevent the deficiency without adding the risks of infectious and parasitic disease that accompany feeding raw meat.

  34. kelly says:

    sv: thanks for the input on the raw fad; I’ve never thought it’d be a good idea to add a heapin’ helpin’ of infectious agents & parasites to the lad’s diet, tho I’ve had a ton of folk try to convince me. I did learn that it’d cost as much as my monthly house payment (PITI, no less) to have his taurine levels checked, so it looks like we’ll be switching foods as a preventative. I’m hoping a good quality (tho not grain free) diet will be good enough & that a good doggy multi-vitamin can’t hurt. I hope. He’s an “easy keeper” so I can’t give him a large amount of any food, lest obesity become the main problem.

  35. Dr Chavez says:

    It’s so frustrating to read these debates when the issue is much more detailed and so simple, but no one wants to address it! No one is telling the real story.

    Feed grade grains are not harmless. There are no enforced regulations when it comes to feed grade ingredients. Everyone thinks corn = corn and rice = rice. Not in pet food. It never ever has been “the same.” There are rules and regulations that exist for human edible ingredients that do not exist or are not enforced in the handling, storage, and transport of feed grade grains (and meat meal, byproducts, etc).

    Therefore, often moldy or spoiled grains are used in pet food. Moldy grains become riddled with mycotoxins and these have been found consistently in finished extruded pet foods in decades of research in scientific journals.

    Why were grain free diets so popular? Because they helped reduce mycotoxin toxicity in kibble. Wholesome grains are fine for dogs, healthy even. But what no one wants to acknowledge is that feed grade grains are and have always been toxic.

    Grain free diets sold well and this market grew because in the short term, consumers stopped poisoning their dogs with immunosuppressive mycotoxins. Unfortunately some of these boutique brands were not properly formulated and the low quality of protein sources and other ingredients meant that in the longer term, problems would occur (current taurine issue). This isn’t a grain or grain free issue. Grains are fine, potatoes are fine, legumes are fine.

    What isn’t fine and has never been fine are highly processed feed grade ingredients being used to feed our pets. There’s a reason we don’t feed the world with kibble. It’s simply not safe.

    Veterinary nutritionists and veterinary toxicologists must get very honest with each other and start collaborating because the secret is out and vets look stupid being the last to figure it out. Unfortunately, in many cases some of these folks are unwilling to have the real debate due to political reasons, undying loyalties, or at this point – embarrassment of having to face reality. Every time I them say that there’s nothing wrong with kibble I truly wonder if they truly believe it, or it’s just what they have to keep saying. It’s like watching Lance Armstrong deny doping. At some point you start thinking he truly believes he didn’t do it!

  36. skeptvet says:

    The usual baseless accusations presented as FACT without a single bit of evidence. Mycotoxins do sometimes turn up in commercial grains, but they are detectable and cause recognized clinical problems that are both rare and entirely unrelated to this current issue. The claim that “kibble is bad” is just an ideology, a belief, not a fact supported by evidence. There is also zero evidence for any benefits from grain-free diets, including the claim that they contain fewer mycotoxins. While there is much we don’t yet know about the current problem, there is at least some evidence of association between certain ingredients and diets and a clinical disease, and you can’t simply dismiss his as meaningless because it conflicts with your personal antipathy for commercial foods.

  37. Brian Cullen says:

    Dr Chavez , you make a lot of claims without showing any actual proof , now i too know that if i dig deep enough i will find examples of much of what you have claimed , but that doesnt equate to the conspiracy you claim . So in short can you post evidence of the claims you make that shows it to be firstly true and second of the magnatude you present.

  38. L says:

    I think we should all just wait for the results of the FDA investigation.

    This is all just speculation of course, but I am thinking that a diet heavy in legumes and potatoes just might speed up elimination of good things as well as bad?

    Example, in an attempt to lower cholesterol (genetic) I am on a diet that includes a high percentage of legumes and potatoes, mostly healthy soups, minimal animal products, no red meat or dairy. Guess what? My cholesterol is wnl, no meds. It’s not easy but I prefer this method to taking meds. Maybe it’s the fiber? Who knows.

    In the meantime I have gone back to grain inclusive for my dogs, no issues, just reacting to the grain free scare.

  39. Lynne says:

    Hi L,
    you’re not a dog you’re a human being, so how can you compare what you’re eating with a dog who blood test show low taurine??
    You could cut out the legumes & white potatoes, eat fish, fruit, vegatables & this will also lower your cholestrol…. lentils are a poor mans food..

  40. L says:

    My point being that if certain foods tend to lower cholesterol in humans, then maybe certain foods lower or interfere with taurine production in dogs. Just a thought…

  41. Todd Richardson says:

    Skeptvet,
    Let me first off state this whole “grain free” controversy is troublesome to me. I’m concerned but I think there’s way to much misleading information and no facts. I think that even some of this is possibly paid for by big brands to undermine the smaller brands making an impact on their bottom line.
    In your comments above you stated that dogs can get Taurine from other vegetable sources and you also mentioned that cooking isn’t the problem.
    Those statements actually conflict with the UDC study here that shows that cooking/handling method does indeed have a big correlation to taurine that remains in the final product. Also it states in this that there’s no available taurine (if I read this correctly) found in any grains, potatoes, legumes, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. See paragraph 2 in the “results”.
    https://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/sites/g/files/dgvnsk491/files/aal/pdfs/spitze.pdf
    Misinformation or misguided information by “veterinarians” on the internet is the scariest thing I see here.
    What I’d like to see more of is less pointing of fingers with out more proper research. It seems like even the FDA should not have pointed to or singled out “grain free” foods with out having more evidence. Everything I have seen/read has noted that all these case where the dog had low taurine they required a supplement but no one can tell us if changing the food by itself resolved the issue. Meaning that you can’t single out the food by itself.
    I think people should review what they are feeding their dog or cat (pet) regularly but don’t panic unless their is an issue with their pet. Everyone can make their own choice to change what they feed but no scare tactics like I have seen should be used.

  42. skeptvet says:

    I think you have misunderstood or mis-characterized what I have said here. I have tried to be pretty clear that what we are seeing is a potential association in a tiny number of dogs that may or may not turn out to be a casual relationship. Given the tens of thousands of dogs eating all different kinds of commercial diets, the fact that we have identified a few hundred with DCM suggests that the problem is likely a multifactorial one in which diet is simply one of many risk factors. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t follow up on these observations, but I don’t see anywhere that I am suggesting people panic.

    I do think it important, however, for people to understand hat the popularity of grain free diets is, itself, based on irrational and unscientific fear mongering about grains, and it seems that should concern you at least as much as the excesses of reports on this problem. If it turns out that grain-free diets have harmed a few dogs, it will be an example of an unintended negative consequence to an irrational fad in pet diets.

    As for taurine, I didn’t say that cooking doesn’t reduce taurine levels. Cooking impacts all amino acids. What is important here is that
    1. taurine is not an essential amino acid for most dogs, so levels in the food are irrelevant. The availability of sulfur-containing amino acids in sufficient quantity to allow normal taurine synthesis is what counts. Dogs who develop taurine deficiency on a normal diet likely have some other risk factor, such as a genetic predisposition to low absorption of such amino acids, ow taurine synthesis, excessive taurine elimination, etc. Diets may exacerbate this in these dogs and lead to a clinical deficiency which, as I keep pointing out, requires the coming together of a number of risk factors.
    2. Cooked diets will still contain appropriate amounts of necessary amino acids if properly formulated. Coking may reduce the levels of some nutrients, but if you start with an appropriate amount before cooking and you end up with enough afterwards, then this is not a problem. We all eat mostly cooked foo all of our lives, and deficiencies in amino acis that are essential for humans are virtually unheard of in people not living in poverty. Cooking is not the problem.

    I also think the idea that this is some kind of plot to attack small pet food manufacturers is nonsense. Grain-free diets now make up 25% of the dog food market, and every major manufacturer sells them. Promoting conspiracy theories like this about Big Pet Food are not the kind of measured, rational approach to the subject you claim to want.

  43. Lynne says:

    Hi Todd Richardson,
    it’s not just grainfree diets causing heart problems / DCM, Lamb & Rice has also been found to cause low taurine in dogs….certain ingredients are blocking the dog from absorbing enough taurine, also dog owners who added sardines, beef, eggs etc to their dogs dry kibble meal still had low taurine & the taurine wasn’t being absorbed??…
    Rotate your dogs foods, don’t feed your dog the same brand of dry dog food… you should always change rotate your dogs dry foods, rotate with a few different brands so if there’s a problem with a certain formula then your dog isnt eating to same dry dog food….I think its common sense, dry kibble isnt to best food to feed a dog, no matter how expensive the dog food is, dry kibbles are all made the same way cooked at very high temperatures to kill everything even all the good nutrients..

    Here’s a link to a study
    Taurine-Deficient Dilated Cardiomyopathy in a Family of Golden Retrievers..

    A reversible taurine-deficient dilated cardiomyopathy occurred in five related golden retrievers. An apical systolic heart murmur was the most common physical abnormality. According to fractional shortening and end-systolic diameter on echocardiography, significant improvements (P<0.005) were recorded within 3 to 6 months of starting taurine supplementation. The
    dogs regained substantial systolic function, and four were weaned off all cardiac medications except taurine. This response to therapy was unusual, because canine dilated cardiomyopathy is generally progressive and fatal.
    J Am Anim Hosp Assoc 2005;41:284-291.

    https://www.dropbox.com/sh/zpqq66i3w2twy7e/AADcuRPcpOOBkewPtXf7SAdSa?dl=0&preview=GoldenRetriever_Taurine_DCM.pdf

    Here's another study done on Newfoundland Dogs low in taurine.

    https://www.dropbox.com/sh/zpqq66i3w2twy7e/AADcuRPcpOOBkewPtXf7SAdSa?dl=0

  44. Brian Cullen says:

    Lynn , not all kibbles are the same ,and not all are cooked the same way either , there is cold pressed kibbles for starters . cooking can reduce some nutrients but also release some nutrients too , your are way over simplifying things and being a bit dramatic with cooking kills everything , so kibble is what then exactly ?

  45. Lynne says:

    Brain,
    That’s a first NEVER heard of a cold pressed kibble ?? a link please of this amazing cold pressed dry kibble??.
    I’m just saying the way it is, kibble is a processed dry dog food, cooked at VERY high temps to kill all the rotten fly ridden meats & ingredients, would you just eat a dry processed meat biscuits 24/7 month after month, year after year, NO you probably eat a variety of fresh foods….do the same for your pets..
    Remember the man that just ate macca’s for 1 month? he got sick, very sick, dry kibble is a quick & easy takeaway food made for cats & dogs who have lazy pet parents…

  46. Brian Cullen says:

    Heres two for starters
    https://www.gurupetfood.com/the-dog-food-revolution/
    https://www.markus-muehle.co.uk/details1.html
    Supersize me … http://www.ign.com/boards/threads/supersize-me-is-a-joke-of-a-documentary-it-even-debunks-itself.453231241/page-2
    you might enjoy Fat Head , a bloke eats nothing but McDs and guess what , he gets healthier .. ( both docs are actually full of merde ) .
    If you can show me actual evidence that a good kibble is damaging to the health of pets ill gladly read it , and ill also glady read any actual evidence you have showing other diest to be better .

  47. Peter Lambros D.V.M. says:

    The complexity is illustrated by the fact that not all of the grain free diet DCM dogs reported , are taurine deficient . The complexity I believe , lies partly at least , in the fact that canine DCM is more complex than we previously knew.
    For example, there appears to be a relatively newly recognized development in some highly athletic Springer Spaniels whose hearts undergo structural changes which on echocardiogram show every hallmark of DCM ,but who remain asymptomatic and do not progress to CHF . Due to the resting behaviour of their cardiac muscle they may however, be more susceptible and at greater risk of sedative side effects ( e.g. Bradycardia, VPCs). This has been compared to Human Athletic Cardiac Hypertrophy.

  48. skeptvet says:

    Interesting. I agree there is a lot we don’t know yet about what is happening here, and I look forward to the outcome of ongoing research.

  49. Louis says:

    Hi! I’ve came across this study the other day, and I thought I could add some vegetables to my dog’s bowl of kibble, but then I remembered this relation between legumes and DCM. Green leafy vegetables are ok, right?

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/16013542/

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