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To Feed Grain Free or Not..DCM

Updated: Feb 18, 2023

Let’s talk about DCM or dilated cardiomyopathy and grain free diets.

What is DCM? In the simplest terms, dilated cardiomyopathy is when the heart gets very thin and dilated hence the name DCM. The heart can no longer contract properly so in severe cases your dog goes into heart failure. Most of the time this is a poor prognosis or treatment options were very limited.

Traditionally, the disease was never associated with diet as it was associated with genetics. Mostly in breeds such as Dobermans, Great Danes, Wolfhounds and Boxers. Then it started showing up in breeds such as Golden Retrievers and other very common breeds. At this point there was a clear link with diet.

In 2018 a report was rushed to print specifically naming several grain free dog foods as the ones most likely cause of DCM. This report was unfounded and not enough research was done before releasing this article. In just a few months another article was released acknowledging the error but the damage and fear was already in the dog community.

The real concern with the increase in DCM in dogs is Taurine, the lack of taurine in a dogs diet, the inability of some large breeds to produce enough to help with digestion and the ingredients in some foods that hinder taurine from doing its function.

Taurine is an amino acid. This amino sulfonic acid helps some of the most crucial systems function properly. Amino acids for dogs help in the same way as they do humans, aiding in cardiac function, eye health, immune system function, and in multiple other systems. Taurine is especially concentrated in the heart muscle and contributes to it functioning properly. Taurine regulates the blood flow throughout your dog’s body, which helps to strengthen the heart’s walls.

So, can dog food increase the risk of DCM? Yes.

Researchers at Tufts and other universities they have found that yes, diet can be associated with DCM. However it's not just grain free, it could be in a grain based diet. There are three ingredients that have been most implicated.

Number one in the list of these is peas #2 lentils #3 chickpeas. The protein in peas contain phytates. Our dogs are carnivores, and they lack the enzyme to break phytates down. So now phytates can bind to certain minerals and enzymes. When that happens taurine is not getting absorbed and guess what, your dog doesn't have enough taurine

So why do kibble manufactures put these in the food. Simply put, the protein content. With these in your dog’s food they can rate the protein percentage higher. This is a problem because guess where dog’s primarily get taurine from..meat. Beef, chicken, fish, turkey, pork, lamb and organ meat. Most kibble companies already cook with such a high heat there are not enough nutrients left to really count anyway.

Bottom line, any kibble can contribute to DCM. Especially if they have lentils, peas, etc in the food.

What can you do to supplement your dog’s diet if you have to feed these kibble brands. Add taurine rich foods as a topper to your dog’s bowl. Throw so organ meat, a few pieces of fresh meat or even some raw goat’s milk or kefir. There are also taurine booster supplements to fill that gap.

This and should be an ongoing full-blown study so that we can be truly informed about the ingredients in our dog’s food.

Here are just a few interesting articles and studies for your reading pleasure.

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