FDA Warns that Some Dog Food Brands Could Be Linked to Heart Disease

The FDA has linked some dog food brands to heart disease

If you feed your dog food from Acana, Zignature or Taste of the Wild, take note: The U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA) has issued a report warning that these and some other brands may be linked to a very serious form of canine heart disease.

The FDA announced about a year ago that it had received “highly unusual” reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) – a condition that enlarges the heart – in dogs whose breeds aren’t genetically prone to this potentially deadly disease.

As I wrote for Care2.com at the time, all the dogs had eaten unidentified commercial pet food with the main ingredients of peas, lentils, other legume seeds, and potatoes – products that are usually labeled as “grain free.”

At the time, the FDA was looking into whether DCM could possibly be connected to dog food whose main ingredients are legumes (such as peas or lentils), legume seeds or potatoes.

A year later, the FDA has announced that it received 560 confirmed reports of DCM in dogs from January 2014 to the end of April 2019. Over 20% of those dogs died. Cats were also affected: Of the 14 reported cases, five cats died.

Now the FDA is naming the dog food brands most of those dogs ate. In the majority of the reported cases, the dogs had eaten dry food, but raw, semi-moist and wet foods were also represented.

These are the brands listed by the FDA and the number of cases reported for each:

FDA dog foods connected to heart disease
Photo: FDA

The agency has not yet asked for any of these products to be recalled. In the meantime, for the health of your dog, you might want to consider buying a different brand.

If you’ve been feeding your dog Acana, Zignature or Taste of the Wild pet food and your dog is coughing, lethargic or having breathing difficulties, see a veterinarian immediately.

What is DCM?

DCM causes a dog’s heart and its chambers to become dilated, making it more difficult for the heart to pump. This can cause the heart’s valves to leak and fill the dog’s chest and abdomen with fluids, which can lead to congestive heart failure and possible death. Fortunately, if it’s caught early enough, DCM can be treated with heart medication and a change of diet.

The disease typically affects large dog breeds, like Great Danes, Boxers, Newfoundlands and Doberman Pinschers. With the exception of American and English Cocker Spaniels, it is less common in medium and small dogs. Yet the FDA has received reports about all sizes of dogs and mixed breeds showing signs of DCM.

Some of the dogs in the cases reported to the FDA had abnormally low blood levels of the amino acid taurine, a nutritional deficiency that can lead to DCM. The FDA believes a lack of taurine in the pet food could be the reason for so many reports of DCM. The Lab is recovering, thanks to taurine supplementation and a change in diet.

Are grain-free diets for dogs a good idea? Dr. Julie Churchill, a nutritionist with the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, doesn’t see any benefit.

“My take away is don’t look at that list and just say, ‘My dog is not eating that brand,’” she told CBS Minnesota. “Remember that those are only the brands that have been reported.” Good advice.

Portions of this story were originally published on Care2.com.

Photo by Ludwig Willimann from Pixabay