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Grain-Free Diets and 'suspected' links to Heart Disease

Let’s talk about Grain-Free diets and the possible link to heart disease. The media is really jumping on this topic, and sadly spreading quite a bit of mis-information or just small ‘snip-its’, out of context, about the suspected link between grain-free pet food and cases of Dilated Cardiomyopathy (a form of heart disease). So I want to share some facts from a recently updated and on-going study from the FDA, and what we at Kimberley Kritters are doing.

If you are interested in all the details, please take the time to read the full FDA study attached. CLICK HERE for full study

The FDA first posted information about a possible concern with DCM and Grain-Free diets back in July 2018. Since then, they have published 3 updates, including the one above in the link.The FDA just released updated information last week, from a yearlong study. The study consisted of 524 pets (515 canine reports, 9 feline reports)

To date, there is NO causative scientific link between grain-free diets and DCM.

The FDA Study states: "The FDA is still gathering information to better understand if (and how) taurine metabolism (both absorption and excretion) may have a role in these reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy."

There are theories being studied as to what is causing a slight increase in DCM in some dogs. One theory is grain free diets, but after a year-long study, it is still inconclusive. They know some pets develop a decreased level of an amino acid called Taurine. This decreased level of Taurine is a cause of 'diet-related dilated cardiomyopathy'. What we all want to know is the WHY and HOW and does a grain free diet actually have anything to do with causing decreased Taurine levels and DCM? The thought was that eating a GF diet may have something to do with it, but they also found that some dogs with DCM were NOT on a grain-free diet and also had decreased levels of Taurine. While they have linked Taurine deficiency to DCM, there is still no conclusive finding on why or how it may be linked to a specific diet.

They also tested multiple popular grain-free products for minerals and metals (calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, cobalt, copper, zinc, selenium, iodine) and amino acids including taurine, cysteine, and methionine. That product testing did not reveal any abnormalities.

They tested popular foods (the ones listed on the 'graph picture' that has gone viral) that are grain-free and also some containing grain, for the following:

  • protein, fat, moisture

  • crude fiber, total dietary fiber, soluble fiber, insoluble fiber

  • total starch, resistant starch

  • cystine, methionine, and taurine

The study stated: “The average percent protein, fat, total taurine, total cystine, total methionine, total methionine-cystine, and resistant starch content on a dry matter basis (in other words, after removing all moisture content) were similar for both grain-free labeled and grain-containing products.”

So in the end, the study is still inconclusive and there is no need for alarm.

We have some concerns about the post that has gone viral, mentioning the brands of food "linked to DCM in dogs" when in fact there is NO causative link to these brands. The post going around is saying "FDA warns against popular brands of food" when in fact they are not warning... they simply released a study that shows what brands of food the dogs in the study were eating. They are simply the most common brands being fed.

The most popular food in the study was Acana. 67 out of 524 dogs in the study were fed Acana, one of north Americas most popular brands of food. We are concerned as we are fielding many calls and visits daily with people panicking, stating Acana is killing their dog. It is absolutely not the case. There is believed to be 77 million dogs in the United States alone right now, not counting Canada. Of the 77 million dogs in the U.S., 0.5% to 1% are known to have DCM, and of those dogs with DCM, a fraction are 'speculated' to have DCM related to diet (0.0007% of all dogs) So singling out brands at this point is both damaging and misleading to consumers. It only adds more confusion to an already confusing topic.

This past week, I spoke directly to all my contacts for each of the brands of food we carry. I wanted to ask their thoughts on DCM and inquire whether or not they have been testing their foods and whether they have Board Certified Nutritionists in their employ. Almost all of the brands have Board Certified Nutritionists on staff, or they work directly with them as consultants.

For instance, Champion Pet Foods, (Acana and Orijen) have the following professionals on their team: 1 DVM, 1 PhD in Animal Nutrition, 2 PhDs in Food Science, 3 Masters of Science in Animal Nutrition (including 2 in companion animal), 2 masters of science in food science, 1 master of science in meat hygiene and food microbiology and between them, 17 bachelors of science in areas such as animal science and biochemistry.

Please CLICK HERE to see Champion Pet Foods public statements towards DCM and diet links.

To read what Champion Pet Foods is doing in terms of testing their food and links to DCM, CLICK HERE.

Fromm was also another company listed in the FDA study with 24 dogs with DCM, eating Fromm. Please CLICK HERE to read FROMM's public statements. We love Fromm Family foods and confidently feed our 3 dogs Fromm.

After having spoken to representatives from all the food brands we carry, I feel confident in our brands we have chosen to carry and recommend. I am confident in their dedication to get to the bottom of this and their desire to make high quality and safe products for our beloved pets.

Losing even 1 pet to DCM because of a possible link between a grain-free diet is unacceptable so I am dedicated to keep researching and watching out for further updates, studies and scientific evidence from the FDA and other reputable science based studies. The pet food industry has grown leaps and bounds in the last decade, and the reputable companies out there are only getting better. I have to believe that they practice what they preach, and will continue to work towards the best possible diets for our furries.

If you feel your pet may be predisposed to DCM, have any health related issues or symptoms, please see your veterinarian. If your pet needs a specific diet because of a health related issue, your vet is the best source of information. If your dog is showing possible signs of DCM or other heart conditions, including decreased energy, cough, difficulty breathing and episodes of collapse, you should contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.

If this is a concern for you, we have many grain inclusive options too! Grain free diets are great for pets who have allergies to grains, but if there is not a proven reaction/allergy/immune response to grains, or a need to be on a specific GF diet, then going with a balanced, whole grain diet is a great choice!

Please feel free to pop in to Kimberley Kritters, or call us @ 778-481-5440 if you have more questions or concerns.

We promise to keep you updated and informed on any and all studies on this topic. Pet health, nutrition and wellness is of the utmost importance to us!

Thank you kindly for taking the time to read this post.

~Erin Thompson

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