A new report from the Food and Drug Administration makes navigating the pet food aisle more complicated for dog owners. As The New York Times reports, the FDA has linked 16 popular dog food brands to canine heart disease, many of which present themselves as healthier options.
The FDA has traced unwanted cardiovascular symptoms in dogs to many grain-free pet foods that replace ingredients like wheat and corn with peas, lentils, legume seeds, or potatoes. Brands included in the study, ranked in descending order of most related heart disease cases, included Acana, Zignature, Taste of the Wild, 4Health, Earthborn Holistic, Blue Buffalo, Nature’s Domain, Fromm, Merrick, California Natural, Natural Balance, Orijen, Nature’s Variety, NutriSource, Nutro, and Rachael Ray Nutrish.
Products from these brands are often marketed as “healthy”, “high in protein” and “all natural” alternatives to conventional dog foods. But the new FDA report shows that a grain-free diet can potentially be harmful to a dog’s health. Between January 1, 2014 and April 30, 2019, the FDA received 560 reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition commonly seen in large breeds of dogs that can lead to heart failure. Of these cases, 119 of them were fatal. Canine dilated cardiomyopathy is believed to be partly genetic, but according to the administration, many dogs studied were not genetically predisposed to the disease. The likely culprit behind their diagnoses was diet.
“We understand the concern of pet owners over these reports: illnesses can be serious and even fatal, and many cases report consuming pet foods labeled ‘grain free’,” the FDA said. in the report. “The FDA uses a range of science-based investigative tools as it strives to learn more about this emergence of DCM [dilated cardiomyopathy] and its potential link to certain diets or ingredients. “
Grain-free pet food makers claim that corn and wheat kibbles do not reflect the diet of dogs’ wild ancestors and are therefore bad for them. Canine health experts say it’s a myth: Wild canines like wolves ingest grain in the stomachs of herbivores they hunt. Plus, grains contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber that dogs can benefit from.
Regardless of a dog’s diet, pet owners should be aware of the symptoms of canine dilated cardiomyopathy. A dog that exhibits decreased energy, coughing, difficulty breathing, and episodes of collapse should be taken to the vet as soon as possible.
[h/t The New York Times]