UPDATE: On March 17, 2022, veterinarians and scientists from BSM Partners LLC, a pet care research and consulting firm, and the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, published an analysis of a retrospective survey that evaluated the annual incidence of DCM diagnosed by veterinary cardiologists in the U.S., along with previously unknown information about the growth of grain-free pet food store sales. "A five-fold increase in grain-free pet food sales was demonstrated from 2011 to 2019," and "the data did not support a significant change in percent DCM over time, from 2000 to 2019." Read more here.
UPDATE: On June 15, 2020, a group of veterinarians, veterinary cardiologists, and animal nutritionists published a peer reviewed article in the Journal of Animal Science reviewing the causes of DCM. They “examined the results of more than 150 studies, which taken together did not support a link between grain-free and legume-rich diets, and DCM,” said Dr. Sydney McCauley, the lead author. “What the science does make clear is that DCM is largely an inherited disease.” Read more here.
DO YOU HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT DCM?
At Hollywood Feed, pets are family. Anytime there is a concern we go out of our way to research and make sure that we are providing the very best for both our customers’ pets and our own pets. We have been following the investigation into DCM very closely since the initial alert in July of 2018 and have been monitoring our own reporting systems for any confirmed reports of nutrition-related DCM.
To read the full release from the FDA, Click Here.
We understand that this information can be overwhelming and stressful for all pet lovers and want to make sure we are providing you with the most up-to-date information. We’ve noted some important information from the report that we want to provide to our valued customers:
WHAT IS DCM?
Dilated Cardiomyopathy, or DCM, is an enlargement of the left ventricle of the heart. There are many possible causes for this condition. The FDA admits in their release that they have been unable to determine any causation for the reported cases and that it is a “complex scientific issue that involves multiple factors”. The release contains a lot of data and can be overwhelming and frightening. Please understand that this is a list of reports, not a comprehensive study. The reports were freely given, many in response to the initial request or increased awareness, and we have no baseline to determine how common this condition was before the study.
MY BREED IS ON THE LIST. SHOULD I CHANGE HIS/HER FOOD?
Unfortunately there is no CDC for pets, so we do not have a complete list of susceptible breeds, but many of the breeds likely to have a genetic cause are either spaniels or large breeds, including Golden Retrievers, Great Danes, and Cocker Spaniels. The reports given have no baseline to rule out dogs genetically predisposed to DCM and do not account for how long an animal was fed any particular food. Many reports were on pets that were fed multiple foods. If those with a genetic predisposition were removed from the report, the report might look drastically different. As the report said, no cause has been established, food-related or otherwise. If your breed is one that may be prone to DCM, your vet may recommend further tests.
HOW COMMON IS DCM AND WHY ARE WE JUST HEARING ABOUT IT?
At this time only 0.00073% of dogs have been reported as having DCM between January 1st, 2014 and April 30, 2019. That is 560 out of an estimated 77 million dogs in the US. Since the FDA’s initial alert in July of 2018, the issue has been shared on multiple social media sites and news outlets which encouraged anyone feeding a grain-free diet to get tested, likely leading to many dogs getting tested that may not have been otherwise. This also may explain why so many of the reports were from dogs being fed a grain-free vs. grain-inclusive diet. Without having an idea of the total number of dogs that were tested, including dogs that did not have DCM, there is no way to know if grain-free is a relevant factor.
It’s important to note that this number is an increase in reports but may not represent an actual increase in cases. Many of these sites are breed-specific, which may account for the apparent increase of reports in those breeds, such as Golden Retrievers.
IS DCM A NEW PROBLEM?
Surprisingly no. Although it may seem new, scientists have been writing papers on apparent increases in DCM for decades. These studies date back as far as the 1970’s [Ettinger, Bolton, Lord et al 1970], and more recently in 2001 with a study on 12 dogs being fed a commercial lamb & rice diet (Fascetti, et al 2003). These problems were occurring well before the popularity of grain-free diets and have persisted without an established cause.
IS DCM LIMITED TO BOUTIQUE/GRAIN-FREE/NOVEL PROTEIN DIETS?
According to the report, no cause has been established and many possible correlations are being investigated. 91% of the foods identified in the study were labeled grain-free. We cannot confirm if this percentage is relevant as this number may also include dogs that are genetically predisposed, or another cause may have yet to be identified. With the traffic on social media and news outlets, many grain-free feeders were encouraged to get tested even with no symptoms. This may have led to a much higher incidence of reporting DCM in grain-free fed pets. The analysis was able to find no nutritional difference between grain-in and grain-free foods. At this time the report numbers are still small and varied, and no baseline has been established to determine which, if any of these cases, is food related. In addition, though previous articles had guessed that the issue may have to do with novel protein diets, the top four proteins listed in the FDA report were chicken, lamb, salmon, and whitefish — none of which are novel proteins. No single protein predominated in the FDA report.
WHAT ABOUT PEAS, LENTILS, AND POTATOES?
Several ingredients have been named as common in the report, especially peas, lentils, and potatoes. However, no significant pattern could be found to confirm a link between these ingredients and DCM. These ingredients are in many foods, both grain-free and grain-inclusive, including foods that have no reports to indicate they have any link to DCM. High concentrations of these ingredients may be found in foods that use them as a significant protein source. If a food uses these ingredients, it is preferred that they be used as a carbohydrate source and a natural source of vitamins and minerals. Animal ingredients are the preferred protein source.
MY BRAND IS ON THE LIST. IS MY DOG GOING TO GET HEART DISEASE?
The top pet food manufacturers are all represented in the list, including Mars, Purina/Nestle, Diamond, Champion, and others. Of course, this makes sense as they are some of the most fed foods in the country. It does not mean these foods will cause heart disease. If you are feeling uneasy about the food you feed but it has been working well for you, consider trying a grain-in diet from the same or similar line. We also have several brands, including Grandma Mae’s Country Naturals, Redpaw, and Koha which were not named in ANY of the reports.
No information presented by Hollywood Feed is a substitute for the advice of a licensed veterinarian. Please consult your veterinarian about potential interactions or other possible complications relating to DCM.