Grain Free Dog Food and Heart Disease

Grain Free Diets and the increased incidence of Dilative Cardiomyopathy in Dogs:

While Dilative Cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a known problem for certain dog breeds, researchers are finding a correlation between feeding grain free diets and developing DCM in other breeds not predisposed to the condition.  DCM is a disease causing the heart to lose its strength and no longer be able to sufficiently pump blood to the rest of the body. The numbers afflicted aren’t huge relative to the dog population in the country but nevertheless we recommend most people move away from any of the foods the FDA has found to be most commonly associated with developing DCM and instead feeding a conventional dog food with grain.  This is far simpler and less expensive than trying to obtain a dog’s taurine level (which might be involved in the development of the condition) or supplementing taurine which may help but not with certainty.  It may be that something in these grain free foods makes taurine biologically unavailable. 

Below is a chart released by the FDA of the dog food brands most frequently fed in DCM cases reported to them:


The only dogs we really recommend go to a grain free diet are those which we are actually trying to see if there is a food allergy and moving the dog to a novel protein such as rabbit or venison along with an unconventional carbohydrate source like peas or potatoes.  This wouldn’t apply to most of our dogs.  Some pet stores have promoted grain free diets as inherently better than those with grain even though there is no evidence to support this.  

We also recommend feeding dog foods from larger companies with recognizable names that are known to have a history of research and feeding success over many years.  Examples of these are Iams, Purina, and Pedigree, among others. This recommendation is consistent with advice from Dr. Lisa Freeman, a veterinary nutritionist at Tufts University, who advises owners reconsider feeding boutique brands, exotic ingredients, and grain free ingredients or what she calls BEG diets.  

Please feel free to ask us any questions about cardiomyopathy, feeding recommendations, or anything else you’d like to discuss!

Maple Leaf Veterinary Care Center Team