Boutique and Grain-Free Diets and Heart Disease

You may have heard the warnings of a link between increasingly popular grain-free diets and heart disease in dogs.

In recent months, cardiologists have documented a rising number of cases of canine dilated cardiomyopathy, or DCM, in dogs eating certain diets, specifically those labeled “grain-free.” Dog breeds with no known genetic predisposition to heart disease were among the reported cases.

This finding was reported to the FDA, which announced its investigation into the potential link in July of 2018. This past June the FDA released its third status report.

In its third status report, released in July, the FDA stated “Based on the data collected and analyzed thus far, the agency believes that the potential association between diet and DCM in dogs is a complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors. “

In 91% of the reported cases, the dog was eating a grain-free diet. Predisposing factors appear to include a high proportion of peas, lentils, and potatoes, and exotic protein sources.

What is DCM?

Dilated cardiomyopathy is a disease of the cardiac muscle that typically involves weakening of the left ventricle, the main chamber for pumping blood. The impaired chamber loses ability to contract and effectively transport blood and oxygen to the rest of the body. The disease ultimately leads to congestive heart failure.

Which brands are named?

Dog food brands named most frequently in DCM cases reported to the FDA
Dog food brands named most frequently in DCM cases reported to the FDA. (Photo: FDA)
  • 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
  • Rachael Ray Nutrish

Our Recommendation

At this point, the link between grain free foods and heart disease is not fully understood. Until we know, our recommendation is to avoid grain free foods, or at least not feed them exclusively. 

If your pet is showing signs of heart problems, including collapse, difficulty breathing, or lethargy, seek veterinary care as soon as possible.