For about 18 months, I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on about canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). I started right after the FDA published its first announcement, in July 2018, that it was investigating a possible increase in the number of canine DCM cases and they suspected a link to the diets the affected dogs had been eating.
Following the topic is like reading a mystery, with lots of possible solutions, some red herrrings, and, tragically, some deaths – dogs getting sick, dogs dying, but no one knows for sure yet what’s making them ill. All anyone can do is keep gathering information about the confirmed cases and try to figure out what the cases have in common.
Long-time WDJ contributor Mary Straus also has been studying this mystery. Like the dogged and disciplined researcher she is, when we supplied her with a spreadsheet containing information about every food mentioned in the reports taken by the FDA of dogs with confirmed cases of DCM, she started collecting information about the foods: their ingredients, their guaranteed analyses. She’s identified some attributes about the products named in these cases that I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere else, and, based on those observations and years of study of canine nutrition, we’ve developed some guidelines for feeding that we hope will prevent any other dogs from developing diet-related DCM. The article describing this work starts on page 3 – and even more detail than what we could fit in the print edition appears in the online version at WholeDogJournal.com.
Here’s one of the most fascinating things that I’ve read regarding these cases: the accounts from the owners of the affected dogs of what they have been feeding their dogs. In case after case, the owners report that their dogs have been eating Food X for a year, two years, five years – or the entire lifetime of the dog.
Why do so many people still feed the same food – or even different products from the same company – for months and years on end? When I press friends or family about why they feed the same food forever, they almost always say, “Well, doesn’t it upset a dog’s tummy when you change their foods?” My answer: “NO! Not if you accustom them to variety!” Unless your dog has proven allergies to a number of ingredients, the more you change foods (and brands!), the better off your dog will be. Otherwise, if there is anything that’s less than perfect, nutritionally speaking, about the food you feed for months and years, that issue will have a long-term affect on your dog! A tiny excess or deficiency of a mineral? An ingredient that interferes with absorption of a vital nutrient? Your dog will literally embody that problem – even if it’s one that no one has yet identified – if that’s all he has eaten for years on end. Switch it up!