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A Grain of Truth

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As pet owners, we are faced with an overwhelming amount of food options for our animals. And just like our own diets, our pet’s diets are subject to fads with little or no nutritional basis or scientific support.

Generally, these fads are as harmless as they are unnecessary. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case.

Since April of this year, there have been over 500 reported cases of diet-associated heart disease in dogs. Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy, or DCM for short, is a serious heart disease that affects the heart muscle reducing the ability to pump blood throughout the dog’s vascular system.

This recent increase in DCM in dogs appears to be associated with grain-free diets. There is also an apparent association between boutique companies, exotic ingredients, vegetarian, vegan, or home-prepared diets.

The exact cause of diet-associated DCM in dogs is unknown. It is possible that an ingredient within these various diets could be the culprit. Currently the FDA and many researchers are investigating this issue to answer this serious unknown.

So how did the myth of “grain-free is better for your pet” develop? A number of pet food companies have used marketing to develop the belief that grains contribute to many diseases in dogs and are a major source of food allergies.

In fact, food allergies are very uncommon in dogs. Beef and chicken are generally the common culprits in the small percentage of dietary allergies in dogs.

It is important to know that grains do not contribute to health problems in dogs and actually provide good sources of vitamins, minerals, and proteins. Those dogs that truly do have a food allergy require a hypoallergenic diet and the support of a caring veterinarian.

As an owner, if you are feeding a boutique, grain-free, or exotic ingredient diet, I urge you to discuss this critical topic with your veterinarian. Veterinarians want nothing more than to help you make sense of all the hype and support the wellness of your beloved family member.

Dr. Rebecca Whitlock, DVM

Midwest Veterinary Service

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