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Does Your Pet’s Diet Put Their Heart at Risk?

As reported in numerous news and media outlets, recent research has uncovered a possible link between certain pet foods and an increased risk of a specific heart disease, called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). The problem appears to be linked to certain diets being deficient in an amino acid called taurine. 


While no one food source is to blame, the study found that most of the dogs with DCM caused by taurine deficiencies were eating grain free diets or diets containing “boutique” ingredients such as exotic meats or legume-based carbohydrates (peas, lentils, potato).  

While some diets containing these ingredients may be deficient, others are complete and balanced. Until more information is known, we offer the following advice for our clients who are concerned about their pet’s diet:

Grain Free Diets are Not Better Diets

If you are worried about your pet eating a grain free diet, simply switch them to a diet that contains grains.  “Grain Free” is a marketing tool to encourage pet owners to buy one diet over another. There is no scientific evidence to suggest grain free diets are nutritionally superior to diets containing grain. A very low number of dogs do have grain sensitivities, but the vast majority do not.

Avoid “Boutique” Diets

Most large pet food manufacturers go to great lengths to ensure their foods meet all nutritional needs of our pets. Some smaller manufacturers do not have the means to do this. Furthermore, to compete in a large pet food market, many of these small manufacturers use unique ingredients to convince consumers that their foods are healthier. The use of uncommon ingredients poses a greater risk for nutritional deficiencies because many of these ingredients have not been adequately studied for their nutritional value.  

Our Prescription Foods are Safe

If we have prescribed a diet for your pet’s health needs that contains exotic ingredients (potatoes, peas, kangaroo, etc.), these diets are supplemented with appropriate levels of all minerals and nutrients necessary to avoid deficiencies.

Schedule an Exam if Your Dog Exhibits Signs of Heart Disease

Early signs of heart disease include coughing, lethargy, intolerance to exercise, and trouble breathing. If you notice any of these signs, you should contact our office to have a veterinarian examine your dog. If caught early, DCM caused by taurine deficiency can be reversed with proper treatment.  

Our Doctors are Available for Phone Consultations

If you have any additional concerns, please call our office at 630-665-6161.

The most recent information on this subject from Tufts University College of Veterinary Medicine-November 2018

"It’s Not Just Grain-Free: An Update on Diet-Associated Dilated Cardiomyopathy"

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