Dr. Al Townshend
Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a thinning of the heart muscles resulting in a decreased ability of the heart to pump blood throughout the circulatory system. Because it is most commonly seen in large and giant breeds, it is thought to have a hereditary or genetic component. Low blood taurine levels have also been found to cause DCM.
As far back as the 1980s, there has been interest in looking at what has been recently termed Non-Hereditary DCM. The current concern arose in July of 2018 when the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) alerted the public that they were launching an investigation into reports of an increase in DCM in Golden Retrievers eating Grain-free foods containing legumes and potatoes.
FDA Launches an Investigation
News media, social media, and many veterinarians misinterpreted the announcement as grain-free foods actually causing DCM. Further updates by the FDA further incriminated grain-free foods without any peer-reviewed scientific information to support the accusations.
FDA actions had devastating economic, emotional, and health consequences for manufacturers, retailers, farmers, suppliers, Guardians, and their pets. Many pets were taken off the most popular biologically appropriate, species-specific diets and placed on higher carbohydrate recipes more typically fed some 15-20 years ago.
It has been 4 ½ years since the original FDA alert was sent out, and no peer-reviewed scientific information to incriminate grain-free foods or any of the non-grain ingredients in causing DCM has been published. There has been much criticism of the FDA and how it handled the issue. The original article on DCM and Golden Retrievers and veterinary opinion articles have been criticized by the scientific community.
Newer peer-reviewed scientific information and a review of over 150 previous scientific papers could find no link between grain-free foods and DCM. Still, many veterinarians recommend moving away from grain-free foods, contrary to logic and scientific reasoning.
FDA Makes an Announcement
On December 23, 2022, the FDA made a limited announcement (they simply added a paragraph at the top of their previous website report) indicating “the information received did not support a causality between DCM and any of the reported foods,” and they do not intend to release further updates until there is “meaningful new scientific information to share.”
This most recent announcement confirms their efforts could find no link between DCM and grain-free foods or their ingredients. They will no longer provide updates unless there is new meaningful scientific information. This announcement seems to begin to close the door on the issue.
It’s time to set aside all of the concern and misinformation about grain and non-grain foods and get back to feeding an animal that evolved as a carnivore a biologically appropriate, animal protein-focused daily diet that is essential for a long, happy and healthy life for our cherished canine companions.