No dog owner would ever feed their dog anything that removes years from their lives, but some have been doing it unknowingly.
In November, WEWS reported on the U.S Food and Drug Administration’s investigation into the possible link between certain dog diets and the deadly heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy, also known as DCM. It’s a disease where the heart becomes enlarged and pumps poorly, thus decreasing the amount of blood throughout the body.
Allison Heaney, a veterinarian cardiologist, said the disease can lead to congestive heart failure, and in some cases, much worse.
“It can also in some situations result in sudden death,” she said.
Since the November WEWS report, more dogs continue to be diagnosed. In hopes of increasing awareness about the disease, thousands of dog owners have shared their stories on a Facebook page.
More than 17,000 people follow the social media page.
A recent article said DCM first came to light in the late 1980s in cats, as it was considered a common cardiac disease. Researchers said, “DCM in cats was associated with a taurine deficiency and could be reversed by providing supplemental taurine. On the basis of that report and substantial subsequent research, the requirement for taurine in cat foods was increased, and taurine deficiency–related DCM is now uncommon in cats.”
Taurine is an amino acid essential to the body.
In most cases right now, dogs who are being diagnosed with the disease are not taurine deficient, according to Lisa Freeman, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist from Tufts University.
Freeman advises pet owners to look for signs of heart disease: weakness, slowing down, less able to exercise, shortness of breath, coughing or fainting. If you notice any of these signs, call your vet.
If your vet feels your dog may be at risk for DCM they may listen for an abnormal heart rhythm, perform blood tests or an echocardiogram (an ultrasound of the heart).
“The research is showing predominantly grain-free foods are the problem, but not all. It’s predominantly golden retrievers, but not all. So there’s no really good answer that you can give people,” Baker said. “I keep up with information from veterinarian nutritionists that are not affiliated with any food companies. So that should remove a lot of the bias.”
Baker said when looking for dog food, don’t cut corners and do your homework before buying food.
“Read the ingredients,” she said. “You can check recall history. Has this company ever had a recall? Do they have veterinary nutritionists on staff?”