The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning pet owners about a possible link between certain dog foods and canine heart disease.
The FDA put out a statement on July 12, following reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating specific dog foods that contain peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes as the major ingredient. The FDA said these reports are strange because the cases of dogs having the disease are breeds that are not typically prone to DCM.
Canine DCM is a disease of a dog’s heart muscle and results in having an enlarged heart. The FDA says as the dog’s heart and chambers become dilated, creating difficulty in the heart being able to pump normally. This can cause the heart valves to leak, leading up to a buildup of fluids in the chest and abdomen.
DCM often results in heart failure, but can be improved if caught early.
The FDA says the true cause of DCM is not known, but is thought to have genetic components. Breeds that are more prone to the disease include larger breeds like Great Danes, Boxers, Newfoundlands, Irish Wolfhounds, Saint Bernards and Doberman Pinschers.
However, the disease is less common in medium breeds, except for American and English Cocker Spaniels. The cases that have been reported to the FDA included Golden and Labrador Retrievers, Whippets, a Shih Tzu, a Bulldog, Miniature Schnauzers, and some mixed breeds.
Among those reported cases, the dog’s diets frequently included potatoes, multiple legumes like peas, lentils, other seeds of legumes, as main ingredients. The FDA said early reports from veterinary cardiology showed the dogs ate these foods consistently as their primary source of nutrition for months or years.
Foods labeled «grain-free» typically have higher levels of legumes or potatoes, but it is not yet known how the ingredients are linked to the heart disease.
Some reported signs of DCM included decreased energy, cough, difficulty breathing and episodes of collapse. Medical records for four atypical DCM cases revealed, three Golden Retrievers and one Labrador Retriever, showed low whole blood levels of the amino acid taurine.
The FDA said taurine deficiency is well-documented as a possible leading factor in the disease. One of the dogs is now recovering with veterinary treatment, including diet change and taurine supplementation.
Four other cases including atypical dog breeds, a Mini Schnauzer, Shih Tzu, and two Labrador Retrievers, showed normal blood taurine levels. The FDA is working with the Veterinary Response Network, a collaboration of government and veterinary diagnostic laboratories investigate the potential association between these ingredients and DCM.
The FDA is encouraging pet owners and veterinary professionals to report any cases of DCM in dogs suspected of having a link to diet. To report a case, click here.