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Possible Link Between Grain-Free Dog Food and Heart Disease

Posted by Mary Ida Young on
Link Between Grain-Free Dog Food and Heart Disease

As pet parents, we are solely responsible for our pet’s health. A big responsibility, but one that should be relatively easy to navigate with all of the knowledge at our finger tips these days. After reading the latest news from the FDA regarding the possible link between “grain-free dog food and Heart Disease” a few of us started to feel uneasy about our own dog’s diets. Should I be worried? Should I keep feeding my dog their current diet? Have I been doing damage? To help, we did some digging and hope the following advice is helpful to you as well. In the simplest of terms, here’s what’s being looked into.


The Food and Drug Administration announced that it is investigating a link between grain-free diets and a common type of canine heart disease called Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM).


Eating grain-free pet foods containing peas, lentils, other legumes or potatoes as their main ingredients. The carbohydrates are intended to replace grains.


The investigation was announced July 12th 2018 and is currently being conducted by the FDA.


DCM is typically found in giant breed dogs such as Great Danes, Newfoundlands, Irish Wolfhounds, Saint Bernards and Doberman Pinschers. The FDA is encouraging dog owners and vets to report DCM cases in dogs who are not predisposed to the disease. They have found atypical cases in Golden and Labrador Retrievers, a Whippet, a Shih Tzu, a Bulldog, and Miniature Schnauzers as well as mixed breeds.


Most of the reported cases of non-predisposed breeds showing signs of DCM involve grain-free diets, but not all 145 cases involving 160 dogs and 39 deaths were attributed to a grain-free diet. It’s too early to tell, but some guess low levels of Taurine (needed in consuming grains) may be the culprit in certain breeds while others say the majority of these cases involve dogs that were not taurine deficient.


Loss of appetite, pale gums, increased heart rate, coughing, difficulty breathing, periods of weakness, and fainting are signs commonly seen.


We agree with experts saying not to panic and wait to see if the investigation finds direct correlation to grain-free diets or other issues related to these cases of DCM such as taurine deficiency. As veteran specialists in dog nutrition, we do believe grains, in moderation, provide an important source of protein, soluble and insoluble fiber, trace vitamins and minerals and other benefits if your dog is not food sensitive to grains. Like your diet needs, your pets’ needs are unique. A well-balanced diet high in protein, balanced omegas, vitamins, minerals, and fiber are the key to a healthy base along with supplementation to make sure their unique needs are being met (like hip & joint, skin & coat, digestion health, life stage adds, etc).

Our supplement powders are “heart healthy” and do not contain ingredients that are part of this issue. In addition to heart healthy ingredients such as flaxseed, kelp, and nutritional yeast, we also include taurine in both our dog and cat products. While dogs are able to synthesize taurine in their bodies, it is not usually added to dog foods but is required to be in cat food under AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials) guidelines. However, dogs with certain diseases, such as heart disease, may be taurine deficient. Certain breeds, such as those predisposed to DCM, are likely to be taurine deficient as well. We’ll continue to watch this closely and provide updates and information.

*For information purposes only, consult your veterinarian before making any changes to your dog's diet.

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  • Sally Wilson on

    I prepare my dogs food in a crockpot weekly. Meat and a varfiety of vegetables (pumpkin, zuchinis, carrots, brussels sprouts) but no potatoes. I also add at least a mug of water that produces a reasonalble amount of thin gravy to which I add enough oats at the end of cooking to thicken it up. Oats are a grain that are full of vitamins and minerals and can be safely consumed by dogs.

  • Km on

    I had 3 aussie all grain free diet

    2 lived to 16 yrs cancer

    1 to 14 yrs cancer his heart was starting to show signs at 12 yrs old

    Not all grain free dog food is good slot get recalled alot!

    Research the food you decide on.

  • Sean on

    Hi Kathy, it does seem like every food is grain free now, but there are many more traditional foods available still. It’s really tough to pick out a food. We definitely recommend researching online, asking other chihuahua owners and poodle mix owners, and consulting your veterinarian.

  • Sean on

    Cindy, we are so sorry to hear about your two losses, it’s heartbreaking! Please know that this research is still developing and is not conclusive yet, we are just following a developing story. One thing we are sure of is that you did the very best by your two pups. And if it is true that grain free is causing DCM, it’s really not your fault. This is something millions of people feed with the intent of giving our pets the best possible lives. There also appear to be contributing factors besides the food. Again, this is still early research and there are no solid conclusion by the veterinary community so do not be too hard on yourself.

  • Cindy Livingston on

    I have lost 2 Doberman pincshers. The first at 6 was diagnosed with bone cancer. Post amputation his heart stopped. The second made it to her 8th birthday. Was diagnosed with DCM on March 8, 2018 and passed away on August 8, 2018. Both dogs ate grain-free dog food all or the majority of their lives. It is devastating to hear that the food that I have my babies could have contributed to their deaths.

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