In the November issue, already in subscribers hands and available at WholeDogJournal.com, we have a number of articles about canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and diet. The articles are a response to the announcements by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regarding their investigation of possible links between certain types of diets and the development of the disease in what seems like a growing number of dogs.
No statistics are kept about the rate or prevalence of DCM in dogs, but veterinary cardiologists first raised their concern that the disease might be occurring more often, and even more distressingly, in breeds that are not known to be at an increased genetic risk. They sent reports about their cases to the FDA, who began investigating. The agency apparently thought the matter merited extra attention or alertness from pet owners and veterinarians, and, in hopes of increasing awareness of the symptoms of the disease, they issued their first announcement in June 2019.
More DCM Cases, or Increased Awareness?
The number of cases of any suspected health condition will rise upon news about its potential risk – and it does seem that there has been an increase in the number of cases since awareness of the symptoms of DCM have been widely publicized. I’ve been following a number of Facebook groups for owners of dogs who have been diagnosed with DCM, and daily, there are people who post stories about their dogs – dogs who were newly diagnosed, dogs undergoing treatment, and dogs who passed away. But, dang, it’s frustrating to not have any idea whether the incidence of the disease really has increased or if it only seems so because more people are aware of the symptoms and are seeking veterinary attention for symptoms that, previously, might have been mistaken for “old age” and gone undiagnosed.
But, as I said in the editorial in the November issue, another thing that makes me crazy is the number of accounts that I read that lament how much they trusted the maker of the very expensive dog food they were feeding their dog – they fed it for years and years, and are now angry that the food may have contributed to the dog’s disease. I don’t think anyone should trust any company with the sum total of their dog’s nutrition for years on end!
What Does This Mean For Your Dog?
It’s important to keep in mind that even the companies whose products have been named in the FDA’s reports most frequently haven’t knowingly done anything wrong. The products have met the existing standards for nutrition, and they have not been contaminated with something that causes illness. No one has identified the cause or causes of the problem, so it’s not like the companies have failed to do something they were supposed to do. There is something – or, more likely, a few things – going on with some foods and/or ingredients.
The solution isn’t just avoiding those foods; until we know more, the solution is not feeding any food as your dog’s sole source of nutrition for years on end. If there is one thing that should be easy for us to do, it’s to switch foods at least a few times a year. Call it a hedge, call it “balance over time,” call it a hassle – whatever you call it, unless your dog is intolerant of many different ingredients, it shouldn’t be that difficult to buy a different product from a different company every other time you buy food. For most dogs, the more often you change their foods, the more robust their ability to digest different foods will become.