Learn more about DCM in the September 2018 issue: “DCM in Dogs: Taurine’s Role in the Canine Diet“
A warning from the FDA about a recently reported spike in the number of dogs developing dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) (linked here again) and a possible connection between DCM and the inclusion of peas, lentils, legumes, and potatoes in the diets of a majority (not all) of the dogs means we are going to be talking about diet a lot for a while.
I read the comments on both my blog from last week and Whole Dog Journal‘s Facebook page (where a link to the blog is posted), and I have also been reading messages and emails sent directly to me, and one thing jumps out: So many people have been feeding grain-free diets with absolutely no reason or justification for their decision. Some people have gone so far as to accuse WDJ of promoting these grain-free dog food diets over diets that contain grain – oh, no you don’t! That is just flat untrue.
The Popularity (Overpopularity?) of Grain-Free Dog Food
When the first few grain-free dry foods began appearing on the market about 10 years ago, we were happy to see products that could be fed to dogs who were allergic to or intolerant of grains. Mind you, these dogs are in the minority. Nevertheless, the fact that some commercial grain-free dog foods were available meant that more people who suspected that their dogs might have an allergy to or intolerance of some grain or another could try one of these foods and see for themselves: Did their dogs improve? Get worse? Or did it make no difference whatsoever? The commercial availability meant they could do a feeding trial that didn’t take a lot of time to research or money (for a home-prepared diet trial).
Lots of people tried grain-free foods and some of them noticed that their dogs’ allergy symptoms or digestive problems went away. When you have been dealing with a chronically itchy dog, or one with persistent diarrhea or gas, and these symptoms cease – well, it’s almost like a religious conversion. These folks often go out and preach.
Between the feeding success of these foods in some dogs, the enthusiasm of the owners of the success-story dogs, and the relentless hype coming from the “bones and raw food” / “biologically appropriate raw food” / “evolutionary diet” people (many of whom have strong anti-grain sentiments), grain-free just took off. I complained in a blog post over a year ago that it has gotten to the point where I was having a difficult time finding a food that did contain grain in pet specialty stores.
It came home again about a month ago, when three different people who were adopting the puppies that I had been fostering for my local shelter each asked about food recommendations and each said, “Should I get a grain-free food?” In each case, I asked them, “Why do you ask?” And not one person had a real answer. “I heard grain-free was better!” seemed to be the consensus. (My answer to that: It’s better for dogs who have problems with grain!)
If pressed about my misgivings about grain-free dry dog foods for any or all dogs, I say this: There is a far shorter history of dogs eating the carbohydrates that are being used in these diets than there was of dogs eating grains. I don’t like putting my dogs on the front wave of anything, whether it is the latest/greatest heartworm prevention medication (when ivermectin works just fine, and has been for decades), or flea treatments, or diets. I tend to want to hold back and see whether an inordinate number of adverse experiences are reported as these things hit the market.
Dogs Need Balance Over Time in Their Diets
But, perhaps more importantly, feeding ANY type of food every day, all year, for years and years, goes against my longest-standing food recommendation. We have always encouraged owners to switch foods frequently – at least several times a year – and switch manufacturers, too. Many food makers use the same vitamin/mineral premix in all their products, making us worry that any nutrient excess, deficiency, or imbalance would become essentially entrenched in the body of a dog fed an exclusive diet of that company’s foods.
Home-prepared diet advocates talk about “balance over time.” The concept is this: If you change the ingredients and recipe of your dog’s diet – exactly as most of us feed ourselves and our human families – as long as you include everything that a dog needs over the span of any, say, week’s worth of meals, the dog will be fine. In other words, every single meal doesn’t have to be “complete and balanced” – you can accomplish this over the course of several meals.
I look at the feeding of commercial diets the same way; I think you can similarly achieve balance over time by feeding different commercial products from different manufacturers, and, in this way, hedge your dog’s nutritional bets, rather than going “all in” on any one manufacturer or set of ingredients.
Whole Dog Journal‘s General Dog Food Recommendations
When I am asked to make diet recommendations, these are the things I say:
1. Feed a variety of products, rotating both among and between several manufacturers of products, for nutritional balance over time, and to avoid problems caused by long-term exposure to any formulation problems or nutritional imbalances/excesses/inadequacies in your dog’s diet.
2. Feed the best food you can afford and that your dog does well on. This doesn’t mean spend the most that’s possible; if your dog does great on mid-range foods, great! But super cheap food should be avoided. The difference in the ingredients of cheap foods versus mid-range foods is staggering.
3. DO READ ingredient labels. You should recognize most of the foods in the food; if things are weird, and only sound sort of food-like, they are likely highly processed food fractions. You don’t want to see a lot of those. If the front of the label says the food is “chicken and rice” you had better see chicken and rice high up on the ingredient label, not buried four ingredients back below chicken by-product meal, corn, wheat, and pea protein.
4. Feed grain-free foods only for good reason (dog intolerant of/allergic to multiple grains). Feed limited-ingredient foods only for good reason (dog intolerant of/allergic to multiple ingredients). Feed exotic protein sources only for good reason (as a part of a formal food allergy trial, or to a dog intolerant of/allergic to multiple “common” protein sources).
5. Above all: Trust. Your. Dog! If it works for him, it’s okay. If it doesn’t work for him, change!
Thank you for your helpful articles. Problem is that when shopping for dry dog food, it is hard to find choices OTHER than grain-free.
Are you kidding me? Yes, there are lots of grain-free choices now, but if you want grains, just look for Purina products and most of the other big dog food brands. Hill’s “Science” Diet also comes to mind. After some readers passionately defended these products because there is a lot of research behind them, I went label-reading at Petco yesterday. It seems to me that junk food fortified with vitamins and minerals is not a good bet.
I found plenty of grain-ful choices.
Good. Like what?
Use Honest Kitchen!!!! They have for example, Complete Chicken meal -Grain free, and they have Complete Chicken meal with Grains!
honest kitchen also has potatoes, peas, legumes
We buy our food at stores other than Walmart, Petco, etc….. maybe try to google arcana brand, lets say and see where and if its available in your area. What about Chewy.com or some other resource like that on line? Its not cheap, but its worth it for our furry kiddos health :). Hope that helps and good luck!
Acana hasn’t been a good brand since an American company bought the company that manufactures it an Orijen.
Acana can cause heart problems, also. Look it up.
Found that out by the vet looking it up FDA Acana is high on the list for heart issues.
Acana is the #1 brand mentioned in that study – potentially creating heart disease. It’s the one we were using and now no more for us… this is the whole point of this article so I’m surprise you would suggest that brand.
I totally agree with all this food mess everyone is writing about, and I am totally confused too on what to buy. When I was a kid my dad fed our dogs Purina. There was only 1 Purina back then, some 70+ years ago. He always put some of our dinner leftovers in the bowl too. Sometimes, when he was making soup for us, he would make soup for the dogs too. No salt or tomatoes, just broth and veggies and meat. He would put that over their food. They also got a raw beef knuckle bone once a week which the grocery store just gave dad, no charge. These dogs would live past 16 years and I never remember having to take them to the Vet except for yearly shots. I think we’ve allowed or caused these food companies to get so fancy with dog food that it’s crazy. I think I’m going back to Purina Pro Plan and add a small amount of good leftovers. Our dogs also had some our snacks like apples, pnut butter, leftover cereal, cheese, salad…. in hindsight I believe their diet was much better than what they eat today. I just wish the crazy no grain, etc. would stop!
You have to remember how much more processed the human food is today. Be careful
Agree. I am confused too.
But the problem my mother has right now her miniature schnauzer is a diabetic and has a heart mummer and we are trying to find a good dog food for her.
We were told to give her Royal Canin liw fat, but that made her sick later on.
I’m going to second that problem. The only dog food I can find right now in stores is grain free… except for the cheap stuff! So what’s a nice high quality dog food with grain? Can’t find them anywhere!
I did a ton of research on this and found a few established brands outside of the big ones (i.e. Hill’s, Purina, Iams) Fromm (Duck a La Veg, Salmon a La Veg, Classic Line) been making pet food since the ’40s, owns its manufacturing plants; Evangers (Chicken With Brown Rice) been making pet food since 1935, has full time nutritionist, American Natural Premium (Turkey and Pumpkin) been making pet food since 1998
I just started my dogs on Evengers Super Premium Chicken with Brown Rice. I don’t know how (or even “if”) it is rated by The Whole Dog Journal, but here is the ingredients list.
Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Chicken Fat [preserved with Mixed Tocopherols], Oatmeal, Dried Egg, Carrots, Celery, Beets, Parsley, Lettuce, Watercress, Spinach, Dried Kelp, Cranberries, Blueberries, Potassium Chloride, Vitamins [Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Niacin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, d-Calcium Pantothenate (source of Vitamin B5), Thiamine Mononitrate (source of Vitamin B1), Biotin, Riboflavin Supplement (source of Vitamin B2), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (source of Vitamin B6), and Folic Acid], Chelated Minerals [Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Copper Sulfate, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Sulfate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Magnesium Amino Acid Chelate, and Cobalt Carbonate], Calcium Iodate, Dried Chicory Root, Hydrolyzed Yeast (Actigen™ – probiotic), Selenium Yeast (SelPlex™), Lecithin, L-Carnitine, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus fermentum Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product (LactoSacc™ – probiotics), Taurine, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Citric Acid Preservative, Rosemary Extract.
Personally, I don’t see how the FDA could have listed 16 top level dog food companies as being the possible culprits when they don’t have the data to back it up. What? 520 dogs affected in 5 years when there are 77 million dogs in the country, with many millions of them eating grain free food! And no conclusive evidence that peas or potatoes are even linked to DCM in any way? And yet the FDA had the nerve to put out that notice which will cost premium dog food companies billions of dollars! Something seems terribly wrong here.
And while I’m at it I am a little disappointed with the above WDJ article, which seems to now be running for cover after putting grain free dogs foods at the top of their ratings for years. Now they are saying they only meant that to use grain free foods if the dog is allergic to some grains. I couldn’t believe I actually read that!
In the study, there have been DCM cases with FROMM’s food, including their grain inclusive variety. They do not conduct feeding trials either. I am not sure about the others as I didn’t research them when choosing for my dog.
You should really be looking for dog foods with the disclaimer that they have been “proven to meet the AAFCO nutrition with feeding trials” not the “meets the AAFCO guidelines for nutrition” which means they did not do any feeding trials and your dogs are the lab rats for testing.
HI EMILY V.,
We feed our Cavapoo (2.5 years old) Fromm dry dog food and while she doesn’t go ga-ga for it she eats it on a regular basis (a few pieces of white chicken however, GA-GA). Anyhow, our vet just gave us this huge over the top spiel on Cardiomyopathic or heart condition CAUSED by grain free foods. We are at a total loss. We recognize “big business” push and that is why I was skeptical of the vets “scare” tactics but, what to take with a ‘grain’ (lol) of salt or not, has us so lost. The crazy study that came out pretty much listed the top grain free foods at our local boutique pet store. I don’t know who to believe and want only what is best for my pooch. Doing research continues to confuse because everyone has their biases related to pro or anti big business, pro or anti grain free, pro and anti raw. As our little pup is only 10 pounds (and Cavalier’s as a pure breed are known for heart conditions) this fear mongering put us on alert. If anyone can help or offer with an obviously UNBIASED opinion, I would greatly appreciate it. That or links that aren’t way deep, sponsored by the products they are recommending.
Have you researched taurine supplements? That’s what I give, once a day. Plus I add steamed veggies to her diet. I do feed grain free but am including a Purina kibble this month. Not sure what yet. But I do buy different kibble, canned food.
From has a high fat content. We tried that one too.
Nature’s Receipe has a low fat content 2.5 . You can buy Nature’s Receipe original with the grain.
I am at a total loss as to the brand and type of dog food I should be feeding my Australian Cattle Dog. The brand I am using is the number one brand reported by the University of Ca Davis to possibly cause DCM. After reading article after article on the subject I am even more confused. Help, please!
I did a ton of research on this and found a few established brands outside of the big ones (i.e. Hill’s, Purina, Iams) Fromm (Duck a La Veg, Salmon a La Veg, Classic Line) been making pet food since the ’40s, owns its manufacturing plants; Evangers (Chicken With Brown Rice) been making pet food since 1935, has full time nutritionist, American Natural Premium (Turkey and Pumpkin) been making pet food since 1998
I’m replying to you since you say you did a ton of research. I’m in the process of doing the same, which is how I came to this post. I’ve heard of Fromms but not the other. My 5 yr old rescue (not bragging lol, only saying that because I don’t know her breed mix other than mostly Wheaten Terrier) had been on Orijen Original for 4 years and was on Merrick before that. Also, I mix in a little Castor and Pollux canned food for her dinner, just for variety. All of that is grain free so now I’m feeling an urgency to switch ASAP. I was leaving towards The Honest Kitchen dehydrated food. It has grains and is apparently excellent. Thoughts?? Anyone?? At my request for her opinion, my vet did some due diligence on this and contacted a pet nutritionist and the FDA, both of whom recommended Purina Pro Plan Focus, specifically the Salmon Sensitive Stomach variety. My dog is a genetic magnet for issues and had a sensitivity to things in general. I’m inherently anti-Purina as I don’t feel it’s quality, high-end food but should I reconsider?
You need to join a facebook group called Taurine Deficiency(Nutritional) Cardio Myopathy. You find many people on there have dogs diagnosed with DCM, dogs that have died from it and their stories as well as vets and vet techs. It has tons of info and moderators to answer questions. The only foods determined to be safe at this point in time by WSAVA are Purina Pro Plan, Hills Science Diet, Iams, Royal Canin and Eukanuba (grain inclusive) as they have the food trials and research behind them. I have struggled too feeling Purina was not good quality but after reading and research I have switched my dog to Pro Plan. Also checkout taurinedcm.org
Funny because the list you listed, other than Royal Canin, I would NEVER feed my dog. They are all crap. My vet says my pets live long lives due to “Good Groceries”. I only feed them the best food, if one sells out like Merrick, Castor&Pollux, California Naturals, etc. I immediately switch and it’s kind of ironic that once they sell out they all of a sudden have recalls. My current go to is Honest Kitchen.
We had two dogs die young from the same stomach cancer. A German shepherd and a Thai Ridgeback. Both were fed Royal Can in. Coincidence ? I think not.
Hello. I too gave in to the scare tactics from my vet. I only want the best for my 10yr old lab mix. So I gradually shifted her from Merrick grain free chicken to purina pro plan weight management. She seemed fine for a few weeks. Christmas eve I had to take her to the ER where she was diagnosed with autoimmune disease that attacks her platelets, she had zero platelettes and was bleeding severely internally. While I believe the disease was underlying for some time, I also believe the grain mixture in purina pro caused issues in her gut that caused ulcers and bleeding. She also started eating grass amd deer poop which she had NEVER done before. I sign of imbalance in her gut.
Noone knows your dog better than you do!
If your dog is doing well you might try introducing gluten free first. Dont go full bore with corn, wheat, and soy like I did. Now my girl is on heavy doses of steroids that are far worse.
There are some I’ve been reading about for the past week that have grains, just not the ones mentioned above. Also, if you go on chewy.com, I think they have a filter for no wheat, corn or soy.
Whatever you do, control the ingredients you add. I am now at a loss as to what she is sensitive to because pro plan had everything in it.
I am investigating Dr Tim’s brand and once I get my girl stable, will try to add that in slowly.
Best wishes to all you dog lovers out there!!
You can have your dog tested for food sensitivities. I had my dogs tested through NutriScan. Some vets have it but I did mine online. They send you a kit. Pretty easy directions to follow. My dog that had so many digestive issues that led to leaky gut was sensitive to a long list of foods including chicken and turkey which was a staple of his diet. My other dog that rarely has any digestive issues and is very healthy , was only sensitive to barley. I highly recommend you test your dogs. It really helps in food selection. Every dog is different.
Seriously, evangers just settled a class action lawsuits after the deaths of many dogs were caused by pentobarbital (euthanasia drug) in their food, so….maybe reconsider not feeding that brand.
My vet said to feed Royal Canin. It’s not grain free but it is high quality.
Look at the ingredients in Royal Canin…there’s no way you can call that food high quality.
So the truth is vets get kickbacks from these horrible foods they all push – Science Diet, Eukanuba, Ian’s. Purina is awful. They are all CRAP! I get so upset that my own vet recommends these. Vets don’t know much about nutrition or they would not push these brands. I honestly don’t know what to do either. I have been feeding my dogs Castor & Pollux Organix but feel I need to rotate now.
Also Royal Canin
Chicken “by-product meal”. No thanks….
^^^ Referring to Royal Canin. My vet suggested that and stupid me took a bag home and then read the ingredients. Never again.
A little late now. i just read this. You can take Royal Canin, Science Diet back to vet and get $$ back. It’s guaranteed.
I totally agree concerning the ingredients.
Have used Arcana for years 🙁 So far, I’ve found Victor and Farmina pet foods have low grain and grain-inclusive formulas, that seem like good options from what I can find about the companies. At least they have formulas without peas or legumes…
FWIW: I believe it’s the volume of peas and legumes used in place of grains, not just peas and legumes as a thing in general.
My vet has recommended science diet, Iams, and/or Purina pro plan. These were recommended due to the active participation of vets that serve with these companies. I’m sure there were others, but I am now making their food as I transition to Purina pro plan.
Yes its hard to find a good quality brand with grains ,ive been online for days trying to figure this out. my dogs just started orijen but theyve been on grain free for awhile my 3 year old has always been grain free
Thinking its the best
Doing research a full complete balanced diet does include grains.
Im wondering if the peas and legumes block certain nutrients
I see that wellness has a deboned chicken with oats i might try that
Or maybe continue the food im using and add some oatmeal to it
Yvette: I’m so confused, too! I wouldn’t be surprised if in 5 years, we see a study that says a GRAINED diet has been linked to XYZ disease following this max exodus from grain free diets. It’s so hard to know what the right thing to do is! That’s said …
I’m in the process of doing the same, which is how I came to this post. My 5 yr old rescue (not bragging lol, only saying that because I don’t know her breed mix other than mostly Wheaten Terrier) has been on Orijen Original for 4 years and was on Merrick before that. Also, I mix in a little Castor and Pollux canned food for her dinner, just for variety. All of that is grain free so now I’m feeling an urgency to switch ASAP. I am leaning towards The Honest Kitchen dehydrated food. It has grains and is apparently excellent based on a ton of online reviews but don’t know if it’s a complete diet or should be mixed with grained kibble? Again … confused.
At my request for her opinion, my vet did some due diligence on this and contacted a pet nutritionist and the FDA, both of whom recommended Purina Pro Plan Focus, specifically the Salmon Sensitive Stomach variety. Then I saw a million reviews on Chewy and Amazon etc. for that good that mentioned DCM and switching and how wonderful it is. I may be overly suspicious but that seemed fishy to me (pardon the pun). My dog is a genetic magnet for issues and has a sensitivity to things in general but has had perfect digestion, poops, etc. on Orijen. I’m inherently anti-Purina as I don’t feel it’s quality, high-end food but should I reconsider?
Lastly, FWIW: I believe it’s the volume of peas and legumes used to replace grains that’s the issue, not just peas and legumes as a thing in their diet in general.
I was like you with my first two doggos. I just got a new puppy when all of this hit the news really heavy. After researching, guess what I’m feeding now? Purina Pro Plan. I switch between the Savor formulations and the Focus formulations. My girl is doing great, stools are small and perfect, glossy coat and bright eyes. She’s happy and energetic. I actually wish I had fed this to my pom who I recently lost to heart issues.
Many of those reviewers are from the Facebook page created about the issue and have a direct link to Dr. Stern who is researching the issue and sharing information with the group. He feeds his Golden Retriever Royal Canin. What you feed is up to you, but I don’t think the Pro Plan reviews are fishy at all because of my experience as well as my vet recommendation. Its really a good food that has been harassed by those wanting a part of its market share.
What the group tells us to make sure of is that the food we feed are dogs meet WASAVA guidelines and actually state they have passed AAFCO feeding trials (instead of formulated to meet AAFCO guidelines). Unfortunately, there are not many foods that do both currently.
I would never feed my dog Purina when Purina was one of the companies that got caught up in that melamine mess back in 2007 I believe it was when all those dogs died.
I find it highly suspicious that the FDA is pushing people to buy food from the big pet food companies.
Purina Pro Plan? Look at the ingredients. They use by products and corn! They also use farmed fish? I would I feed my dog this crap. It’s so upsetting that these companies are using such low quality foods.
Sorry I meant to say I would never feed my dogs this.
The by-products are of a concern with Purina as you don’t know what you’re getting. Feet, beaks, eyes …
I’ve got to say I really don’t know what to do after reading the 79-page report just released by the FDA. It would seem that there are very few companies that got by unscathed. Of those that weren’t mentioned, well, they all seem to have the same “dreaded” ingredients…I must have read 100 labels online tonight!
I have a 6 year old Lab who really does need a grain-free diet. With grains in her diet she gets recurrent ear infections (and the violent head shaking that comes with it), she develops red bumps on her nose & skin loss around her mouth; and licks her paws raw & her vaginal area incessantly. She used to scratch day and night. At first the Vet took her off chicken to no avail, only to learn it is indeed grain-related. She has been doing so well on Whole Earth Farms (by Merrick) but I read in the FDA Report where that brand caused two DCM incidents. Of course we don’t know how many incidents have gone unreported. 🙁
Every grain free dog food…EVERY one of them seems to have some combination of peas, pea protein, lentils, legumes, chickpeas and potatoes in there somewhere. I not looking to trade one problem for another and possibly make matters even worse and at this point I don’t know what to do!
Thanks for any suggestions as to a ‘safe’ grain-free solution.
My dog, age 11, has been on Instinct/Nature’s Variety for his entire life. He’s a mixed breed that probably contains several of the most susceptible to DCM. I’ve read every label and don’t know what to do.
My concern when I went label-reading at Petco yesterday was that the brands that had the best ingredients from my point of view (whole foods, emphasizing meat over *any* starchy carbs) and higher in protein (30% or more) seldom has taurine listed in the ingredients. I noticed that Call of the Wild had one formulation with added taurine, but other formulations didn’t. (I didn’t check them all.) I bought some NOW Foods taurine powder and just need to find out how much dogs need. I figured maybe half the human dose for my 90-pound dog might be about right. Of course, for me, it’s slightly less urgent an issue because I feed my dog primarily raw or home-prepared, so I know she’s getting at least some taurine from fresh meat. I use kibble as a just-in-case supplement, as a filler (with peanut butter) for stuffable treats, and sometimes as training treats.
The thing WDJ hasn’t answered in defense of grain-full dog foods is why dogs need so much grain. It can’t possibly be as digestible as meat and is a substandard protein source. While most dogs certainly *can* tolerate grains, if they are commercially prepared, there is little hope they are made more digestible by, say, soaking them overnight in acidified water (say with a little yogurt in it) and cooking gently, or by fermenting them (as I do for me with sourdough bread, etc). Grains are cheap, yes. Other than that, is there any *good* reason for feeding grains? I’m willing to be convinced, but I haven’t seen a really good defense of feeding grains, just attacks on people not feeding grain even if their dogs aren’t allergic. Isn’t that a little backwards? For sure, they give dogs a huge increase in poop volume, which tells me that’s largely indigestible material.
As to legumes, I can only assume that to make them digestible and less toxic for dogs, they should also be soaked and cooked well to deactivate lectins, etc, just as for humans. Their protein content is higher than grains, yes, but I think what we’d all like to know now is, are they just severely lacking in taurine, or do they actually inhibit its absorption in the dog’s digestive system? And is there anything that preparers of home diets can do to minimize or mitigate such issues? Such as, at what point in the preparation is it safe to add supplemental taurine—before or after cooking? What enhances its absorption? And how much taurine would start to have bad effects? I’d really like to see some research on that, and some answers.
I COMPLETELY agree with your advice to change up a dog’s diet frequently. There’s no reason they should suffer diet monotony.
Jeanmarie: You bring up excellent points here. I too wish to know what, of anything, is lost in the processing of the grains. We’re all going to switch to grained food but what if how the grains are processed is equally or more harmful than pees, or otherwise cause issues/diseases?
I consulted a Plant-Based vet regarding their opinion of the DCM scare and she responded that:
“My understanding is that grain-free diets whether plant-based or not, have a role to play here due to their reduced amounts of the amino acids methionine and cysteine which are precursors of taurine, which is important for prevention of canine dilated cardiomyopathy.”
So that explains why grains are included as they help with the absorption of amino’s.
I hope this helps.
I agree. I am cooking too but need the kibble its too exhausting to cook for 2 dogs. I am confused as to which food to buy. Please help…
This story regarding diet-related DCM in dogs was reported here in the UK a couple of days ago. On checking ingredients of the dried complete foods I buy for my 3 Labradors, in fact every one contains peas/lentils/potatoes etc in varying quantities. I have never exclusively fed a dried kibble diet to my dogs, and I think this is the answer – vary the diet and the protein source on practically a daily basis. My 3 have fish, including tinned sardines and shell fish, dairy, eggs, raw meat and cooked meat of every description, high quality tinned food, and homemade meat and vegetable stock with every meal as well as kibble. I think the key here is variety, but I have to say it did alarm me to read this report. I know this sounds like a lot of trouble to go to but I cannot imagine why anyone would feed their dogs the same dried kibble and nothing else month after month. Any imbalance inherent in that particular food will be compounded over time.
Agree that this subject is alarming, confusing and leaves us with little direction. But the best advice I have read (and I read about this every day) is the idea of variety and switching foods regularly. We have fed our girl Taste of the Wild and now Zignature because we could rotate protein sources within the highly rated brand. But now, I think the advice given here to rotate brands makes even more sense. The idea that the Zignature whitefish, catfish, pork, lamb, et al would have the same essential formula of non animal ingredients suggests the need for more variety.
I am going to hazard a guess. I don’t think a food being grain free is necessarily detrimental. I suspect it has more to do with other ingredients. As to why a manufacturer has to add grains or legumes or potatoes….or sorghum and beet pulp? Price. Most of us can’t afford what a would dog would naturally find.
So rotating brands. Or what about actually mixing them? Back “in the day” we had two Lab mutts on our farm. We fed them half and half Eukanuba (a premium then) and Old Roy (feed store cheapo). A compromise of quality and price. They led very happy healthy lives – 16 of them. The last year or two, we were supplementing with raw kidney and liver.
Speaking of which, our girl also gets a protein boost of a heaping tablespoon or two of eggs, chicken, fish or meat left over from our dinners. And then there are the tiny cheese chunks during our 5:00 wine hour….
Billy Bob: After resting so much on this like everyone else here, I agree with your takeaways: Rotate brands and give a variety of other proteins and ingredients. My dog is my life and I’ll be making this a priority.
My breeder and veterinarian recommend Purina Pro Plan Sport 30/20 for our active labradors. My 6 year old lab developed heart murmur after being fed grain-free Acana and Orijen most of his life. Our dogs do very well on the Pro Plan, and it smells so much better than the grain free kibble we used to feed them. If there were more NON grain-free brands it would be easier to rotate.
Keep in mind that your vet is most likely indoctrinated by Mars, Purina, and/or Hills as part of their medical training. We’re looking at inconclusive info and running with it, pushing every consumer to the three companies that train and/or are in bed with 95% of the vets in this country. It’s essentially a mutual back scratching relationship, and I’m not meaning to downplay the situation with DCM, but it seems that .5% to 1% of all dogs being diagnosed with it, and the reason is inconclusive about the cause…so I’d be wary of upending my dogs diet over an unknown at this point.
Personally, I would never feed an animal a Purina product and my experience is that many vets are not as educated as one would hope when it comes to dog food. I spent a considerable amount of money with vets trying to figure out why my puppy had soft to liquid stools every day (no parasites found!) only to start home cooking for her and immediately stopped the madness. The concern then was that she wasn’t getting everything needed as a growing puppy and I was no chemist trying to figure out how to balance and raw is not an option for me.
I then found Zignature which worked perfectly for her and I was thrilled until now. I, too, have spent hours researching and I have changed to Earthborne Holistic Venture Alaskan Pollock and Pumpkin. It is still grain free, has a Taurine supplement and does not contain any legumes. The company has never had a recall and does not source from China.
This specific line is not named in the FDA report either (other Earthborne are). This is also grain-free however. I’ve considered adding my own grain which may be an option.
I agree that it is difficult finding a QUALITY brand (no recalls, no sourcing from China, etc) that has grain in it but I would bet a dollar that after this FDA report, you will start to find many come on the market. My problem is my Stella appears to be allergic to Oats/Oatmeal and Chicken and those that seem like a good and responsible option like American Journey contain one or both of this ingredient. A couple of other grain inclusive brands I have found were Sport and Dr Tims. Good luck and hopefully more options will come available quickly.
I wonder if Purina sponsored this FDA study. I do not trust the FDA. If they get paid they will lie to benefit a company. HOWEVER saying that I do give my dog some grains in the form of oatmeal or bran mixed with chicken about twice a week. She has been eating Acana all her life (11 years old) and is the healthiest dog I ever had. She never vomits, I can not remember the last time she did. So I think these high quality dog foods are the best to give along with a little home made grain like oatmeal. I would also never use Purina, although the puppy food they have is quality. But for me the best option is the high quality food and a little home made to balance.
I do believe dogs need grains, but I have also seen very healthy dogs on grain free diets live very healthy and a long time. Give the dog Love, it is the most healing ingredient. 🙂
I’m extremely confused after reading article after arrive, comment after comment. I can’t really find anything to address what can be done for dog’s that do have a sensitive stomach. I have a three year old Shih Tzu who suddenly developed a.semsitive stomach (vomiting every time she ate) about three month ago. I switched her to Natural Balance limited ingredient canned food chicken and sweet potatoes and as long as she doesn’t sneak around and eat the cats food, she doesn’t vomit anymore. Then this issue was brought to my attention and I’m very worried, my dog is like another child to me and I don’t want to feed her something for an extended period of time only to find out that it has caused her heart problems. I can’t seem to find any info about what should be fed to dog’s with a sensitive stomach. Should I try supplementing something, oatmeal, eggs, rice, etc? Any help would be greatly appreciated. She’s also very picky and will only eat wet food and only chicken flavor (I’ve tried fish flavors, venison, duck, turkey, and beef). Thanks in advance!
I’ve been thinking the same thing for my pupper.
My 7 year old Golden has been on grain free since about 6 months old. We switched to grain free to get away from the “puppy crazies”, as it was told. She explained it as a type of sugar buzz for dogs, as it always happened after he ate. Grain free solved the problem.
Now this debate…DCM.
I don’t want to completely go to grain inclusive, as not enough evidence, and don’t want to disrupt his biology too much.
My thought is to take a 5 pound bag of premium grain inclusive, and blend in with his regular food, normally a 25 pound bag or so. He has always had. The good stuff, Fromm, Zignature, Holistic. Would this kind of satisfy the beat of both worlds, without a big disruption to his system? Just a thought. Would appreciate any comments. Thanks!
That’s what I’m thinking too.
I live in NE Pa & our Veterinarian touted grain free food for our cats & dogs. Every time we would take them in for a visit she would ask if we were feeding them grain free.. So yes; so professionals do push for the grain free diet. I have changed my 3 dogs & 6 cats diets since the article came out.
I think, after reading all of these lovely comments, that we shall continue to rotate brands, mix them together at some times and then single one brand out for one or two feedings, stay with high end… go grain inclusive, grain free, and sing to the doggies when we feed them… and continue to peruse as I move ahead.
Has anyone considered sticking with the grain free food their dog loves and adding some rice? Is this a weird idea? I’m struggling with what to feed my 7 yr old mixed breed who has been eating Zignature salmon for YEARS. His digestive cycle is so disrupted when I switch his food. Would adding rice solve the issue?
I only just learned about the taurine deficiency and DCM issue when I ready the FDA alert. I am a kid of the 60’s so my initial reaction was to NOT trust the FDA/government. However, I have an 11 year old golden retriever who has been fed Fromm’s grain free all of her life because I bought this expensive, boutique food thinking it was in her best interests and health. I have since joined a FB page called Taurine Deficiency in Golden Retrievers. I have also read Dr. Stern’s (from UC Davis)articles and I can no longer fall back to the conspiracy theories – who’s paying off our vets, who’s paying the FDA, what do our vets know about dog foods, etc. Read the articles by the doctors and researchers. while the “sample” of dogs may not be huge given the number of dogs in the US, remember that many diagnosed heart conditions are not reported and many dogs have passed without being reported. So many of the brands you have mentioned above are listed on the Research regarding dogs who were diagnosed with DCM as being linked to the disease. Arcana, Zignature, Blue Buffalo, Canada, Honest Kitchen, Natural Balance, Taste of the Wild, Stella & Chewy. I have been having a hard time with the concept of Purina, Science Diet, Royal Canin but what they do have is a choice which is premiere and “top of the line” and grain friendly to choose, they have a PhD or DVM nutritionist on staff full time and the staff to run trials and tests and have their own plants and source their own ingratiations — all of which some of our lovely smaller family owned brands do not have the capacity to do. Also, I’ve ready in a few places that it’s not taurine which is missing from the food but the process in which the taurine that our dogs already have in their system is blocked or activated by the ingredients in the food. We should not be randomly adding taurine to the diets since the dogs already have that amino acid AND some dogs with DCM are not low in taurine (I know confusing). PLEASE the FB Taurine Deficiency Golden Retrievers has lots of data that is not just for Goldens. Read it and make your own choice. Just rotating food and certainly not just rotating grain-free food sounds like the answer. There are way too many smart doctors and researchers who are learning and sharing about this new health issue and we can’t swipe them away with our fear of “big business” and “pay offs”, etc. This is called the Silent Killer… and none of us should feel guilty for having fed our beloved pups grain-free all of these years. We didn’t know… but the information is available. Take the time to read it. Especially look at the chart that is listed on Taurine Deficiency in Golden Retrievers> Files>Official Food Brand Tracker. It was compiled with information provided by dog owners just like all of you! Wishing all your pups long and happy lives.
My 3 year old dog Angel just passed yesterday from DCM, we are shattered.. Especially when we thought we were giving her the best life. 2 of the vets we saw yesterday trying to save her as this was all so sudden said it was likely because of the food we were feeding her, her entire life we fed her what we thought and read was one of the best Blue Buffalo wilderness. Her sister has been fed the same here entire life, she has not had any symptoms and will be checked ASAP but I’m so concerned about what I should feed her. I can not loose another 3 year old dog and know it may have had something to do with what I fed her, a pretty expensive dog food.
Watch when everything is said and done it’s overvaccination and too much recurrent medication (monthly heart worm and flea and tick meds). Though that wouldn’t be the answer for my dog who passed of Congestive heart failure last month. Not positive it was DCM as I didn’t have the finances to do a full work up. She was 13 and had fought through several issues including rat poisoning.
Feed them raw food and do mix it up. I feed mine raw organic grass fed beef. Also organic chicken left overs plus occasional sardines. Yes it’s more expensive but she is family and deserves to eat as well as all her family members. Remember organic chickens eat grains and cows alfalfa and oats plus grass. It’s all in there.
My dog is an 11-year old mini-schnauzer who is doing well (no issues). She has been fed a variety of Grocery Store food all her life. These days she is happily eating Costco Senior Diet. Of course, I want her to live as long as possible (average for schnauzers is 12-13 yrs). Should I start feeding her high-end food?
Pretty! This was a really wonderful article. Thanks for providing these details.
Any opinions on Stella & Chewy’s dog food? Thanks.
Thanks for all the information,very helpful Now on to research it.
I feed grain inclusive food and other human food My 11 year old mixed breed has never had a health issue. Wish I could say the same for my pure bred. Maybe the overbreeding is more if an issue than the food.
Can I easily take the Cavoodle to anywhere I go?
Absolute truth is, toy cavoodle pup is a wee little tott that you can take with you everywhere. Moreover – one of great personality of a toy cavoodle puppy is that; they’re “Ease for Transportation and movement”, while having a low “Level of Aggression” when meeting strangers on-the-go.
Do toy Cavoodles shed hair?
Daily walks will keep your Lovely Cavapoo / Cavoodle Pups happy and healthy. They’re small dogs and are hypoallergenic. Cavoodles shed no hair but need to be brushed weekly. Regular trimming and professional grooming are also required.
I’m so glad to see a balanced response! As a scientist myself, it’s so tough to find people who truly understand that NOBODY knows it all, not even us! So trusting one source blindly is sad.
The grain free was a fad that was overblown, that is true.
But it is also true that the SCARE was overblown. There was one study done. One. And that study had a peer review completed of it, stating that the evidence was inconclusive. You can find it fairly easily, just not through Google browsers.
The world goes through cycles of fads and of fear, and unfortunately, people don’t tend to really do their own research.
I love your bottom line–do everything for a good reason, and listen to your dog!