Grain Free Dog Food Link To Heart Disease Explained

As many dog owners are aware, the FDA recently published a list of 16 grain free diet brands linked to a significant uptick in the incidence of a deadly canine heart disease, Dilated Cardiomyopthy (DCM), and an incidence of DCM in dog breeds where it was never before seen.  DCM historically was a strongly genetically linked disease, seen only in a small handful of large to giant breed dogs, such as Doberman Pinschers and Great Danes.  Alarmed by seeing a growing incidence of DCM in breeds where it was never before seen, a sizable contingent of veterinary cardiologists in the Baltimore area performed retrospective historical analysis that established that the common link to the unusual DCM cases was dogs being fed boutique style, grain free diets.  As a result, they collectively lobbied the FDA to look into this to confirm their findings to potentially issue a warning about these diets.

After roughly 18 months of research, the FDA published their findings and concurred with the veterinary cardiologist’s conclusion that there was an established link to DCM among these 16 grain free dog food brands:

  • 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

The FDA also cautioned that the list is likely going to grow as the research is ongoing.

The original cardiologists that contacted the FDA about the anomaly submit that the likely reason these diets lead to cases of DCM is that the food sources used to replace the grains – chick peas, peas, tapioca, etc. – lack adequate nutrients, such as taurine, that are essential to heart health. 

Although true grain food allergies are rare, there are some legitimate cases of food allergy where limited ingredient diets can be helpful.  For these cases, please ask one of  the attending Grant Animal Clinic veterinarians about safe alternatives for grain free or prescription hypoallergenic dog food options. 

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a globally recognized expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , general partner of Grant Animal Clinic, and runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care.  Dr. Welton fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.