In July 2018 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning to dog owners about a potential link between dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and certain diets containing potatoes, lentils and legumes as main ingredients.
DCM is a disease of the heart muscle. As the muscle becomes affected, the heart enlarges and loses its ability to pump blood effectively. This results in an accumulation of fluid typical of congestive heart failure.
It is historically seen in genetically predisposed large breed dogs, including Doberman Pinschers, Newfoundlands, Boxers, Great Danes and Irish Wolfhounds to name a few. In recent times, the disease has been reported to the FDA in breeds in which it is typically not seen, such as Golden and Labrador Retrievers, Whippets Miniature Schnauzers, etc.
The most common symptoms associated with the disease are loss of appetite, lethargy, weakness, exercise intolerance, rapid breathing and collapse.
In the most recent cases reported to the FDA, the most prominent feature is these dogs have been on diets which contain potatoes or legumes (such as peas, lentils, chickpeas, fava beans, etc).
Most of the dogs had been on these types of diets for months to years. Potatoes and legumes are commonly used in grain-free or novel protein diets (rabbit/potato, kangaroo, buffalo, venison, etc) and have been increasing in popularity during the past several years.
Grain free diets are often chosen by the client in an attempt to mimic human nutritional trends. Some dogs are placed on these diets in an effort to help manage gastrointestinal or skin disease.
Several of the dogs also had low blood taurine levels, the significance of which remains unknown at this time.
Researches are still in the process of trying to answer many questions to better understand why dogs eating these types of diets are more likely to develop DCM.
Until then, the current recommendation if you feed a diet in question is to gradually switch to a diet that does contain a source of grain. Raw diets and home cooked diets are not good alternatives. Nutritionists at Cummins School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University are reporting cases of DCM in dogs on raw diets.
In addition, raw diets carry the risk of transmitting infectious disease to both the pet and the owners. Both raw and home cooked diets are often not balanced properly and are nutritionally deficient.
If you feel strongly about making a home-cooked diet, consult with a veterinary nutritionist in order to develop one that will be both tasty and healthy.
Dr. Jeanne Haggerty-Arcay received her undergraduate degrees in biology, biochemistry and Spanish from the College of Notre Dame, Belmont. She graduated from U.C. Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. She enjoys spending time with her husband and three young children.
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