Grain-Free Diets: The Controversy
Some of you have probably heard recent reports that grain-free diets are being linked to heart disease. We wanted to address these reports, as well as share our opinion on grain-free diets as a whole.
To begin -- grain-free diets are often marketed as the safest food for pets with allergies and dogs with gastrointestinal upset (like diarrhea, gas, et cetera). While there are dogs and cats with documented grain allergies/sensitivities, it is rare. The most common food allergies are protein allergies, but it could also be something else! We even have several patients that are allergic to peanuts! The point is: you cannot know what ingredient your pet is allergic to until you have your pet's allergies tested.
One of our staff pets, Matilda, is allergic to the following food ingredients: chicken, venison, eggs, oats and corn. This makes it very difficult to find safe foods for her, as chicken (especially chicken fat), oats (especially oat fiber), and corn (especially corn meal) hide in so MANY diets and treats. And we would have never known the full scope of her food allergies if we hadn't tested her! Yes, she may have felt better by switching her to a grain-free diet... but it wouldn't have been enough, since she's also allergic to several protein sources.
If you are interested in having your pet's allergies tested, call us. We use Spectrum Labs and offer their SPOT Platinum test -- which covers indoor allergens, outdoor allergens, and food allergens. Spectrum also provides a list of "safe diets" based on your pet's allergens, to help you find an appropriate food or treat. And if your pet has outdoor or indoor allergens, there are two types of treatments available through Spectrum. This test generally costs $300*, plus the cost of the exam -- but we think the information provided is absolutely worth the expense.
*prices subject to change
Grain-Free Diets & Heart Disease
On June 27th, 2019, the FDA publicly identified 16 different dog food brands that were routinely reported in conjunction with cases of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).
What is DCM? DCM is a serious and often fatal heart disease that results in a weak and enlarged heart that struggles to pump blood effectively. Symptoms of DCM typically include coughing, trouble breathing, and a lack of energy. Some pets may also be very quick to tire. In advanced cases of DCM, pets may collapse, faint, experience sudden and extreme weakness, or die without warning.
It is important to mention that some dog breeds are predisposed to DCM - including Doberman Pinschers, Boxers, Great Danes, Irish Wolfhounds, Cocker Spaniels, and Newfoundlands. Purebred cats are also predisposed to heart conditions.
Between 2014 and 2019, there were 574 reported (and confirmed) cases of DCM. Of those, 560 were dogs (119 of which died) and 14 were cats (5 of which died). Many of the breeds involved in these reports were *not* any of the breed listed above, which is what caught the attention of Veterinary Cardiologists and convinced them to dig deeper.
After reviewing case histories, one of the few common denominators among these pets was a grain-free diet. While researchers still have not identified exactly what is about grain-free diets that might be increasing the risk of DCM, they have also reported that many pets diagnosed with DCM are seeing improvement with a change of diet.
The FDA's official statement says, "Based on the data collected analyzed thus far, the agency believes that the potential association between diet and DVM in dogs is a complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors." They also are not requiring any manufacturers to issue recalls of their diets, as there simply is not enough concrete evidence at this time to warrant a recall.
The brands mostly commonly reported in this investigation include: Acana, Zignature, Taste of the Wild, 4Health, Earthborn Holistics, Blue Buffalo, Nature's Domain, Fromm, Merrick, California Natural, Natural Balance, Orijen, Nature's Variety, NutriSource, Nutro, and Rachael Ray Nutrish.
For more information, please check out this article: https://news.vin.com/VINNews.aspx?articleId=53973
If you simply decide that you want to change your pet's diet, we can provide you with several recommendations. Many of our staff members (including both Dr. Mac Kenzie and Dr. Wessel!) are using Purina ProPlan diets for their personal pets, and we use Purina ProPlan diets for our in-house food, as well.
If you have questions that were not answered with this blog post or the attached article, we encourage you to contact our office and schedule an appointment for a Nutritional Consultation. This way, we can answer any questions you may have, discuss testing your pet for allergens, and help you choose an appropriate diet for your pet(s). You can reach us anytime by email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or weekdays by phone (928-774-9441).
- Alpine Animal Staff