The Real Deal on Grain Free Food

I jumped on the band wagon when it became popular to feed dogs grain feed food. I thought I was doing what was best for my dogs, because well, I spoil my dogs. Grain free foods seemed to be the healthier option for dogs however recent research conducted by the FDA has shown they may be linked to a serious heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy.

What is Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)?

It is a condition that causes a dog’s heart to have to work harder (pump harder) to circulate blood through the body. The walls of the dog’s heart stretch, becoming thinner, while the blood pressure inside the heart increases and causes the heart to enlarge.

DCM is more common in larger breed dogs such as boxers and St. Bernards however due to a significant rise in cases of DCM in breeds not known to be genetically predisposed. The common factor veterinarians found was the dogs affected were eating a grain free diet. These diets are high in peas, chickpeas, lentils and potatoes (White and sweet).

What are the Symptoms of DCM?

Part of the problem is in the early stages there are typically no symptoms. Your dog may have DCM for years before showing symptoms.  Later stages symptoms of DCM are the same as heart failure. It is important to seek immediate vet care if your dog shows signs of these symptoms,

  • Getting tired quickly, especially after exercise
  • Labored breathing
  • Restless Sleep
  • Fainting/Collapsing
  • Persistent wheezing and/or coughing
  • Rapid Breathing while resting (35+ breather per minute)

Should you stop Feeding your dog a Grain Feed diet?

The FDA is still investigating how grain free diets cause DCM. It was thought that grain free ingredients made it harder for dogs to synthesize an amino acid called taurine, which is essential to heart health. Research has shown that taurine levels in dogs affected have been normal, so that is not the cause.

So where does this leave those of us that feed (fed) our dogs grain free food?

It is a personal choice based on you knowing your dog and how they are behaving. I chose to change my dogs diet. They now eat some grain free food mixed with ingredients such as corn, rice, oats, barley and wheat. I felt that feeding them a better rounded diet could improve their longevity and reduce the risk of DCM. Have I seen a difference- no not necessarily but I do sleep better at night knowing that I am not contributing to the risk of DCM in my dogs. My dogs have given me more joy and happiness every day, and yes some stress when they chew my favorite shoes, so if I can better their lives by making diet changes, well it was a simple choice.

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