The headlines are alarming: “Popular Grain-Free Dog Foods May Be Linked to Heart Disease;” “New FDA Warning Cautions Again Grain-Free Dog Food”; “16 Dog Food Brands May be Linked to Canine Heart Disease”. Even among the most reputable sources, the opinions are conflicting and consequently — confusing. No doubt about it, this is a complex issue. As dog owners and dog lovers, we get it. And as dog food formulators, we’d like to share our thoughts on the subject in the hopes of allaying your fear about feeding grain-free diets.
What is the controversy behind DCM (Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy)?
In July 2018, the FDA issued an alert linking certain grain-free diets with Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). To quote the FDA report: “Canine DCM is a disease of a dog’s heart muscle and results in an enlarged heart. As the heart and its chambers become dilated, it becomes harder for the heart to pump, and heart valves may leak, leading to a buildup of fluids in the chest and abdomen. DCM often results in congestive heart failure. Heart function may improve in cases that are not linked to genetics with appropriate veterinary treatment and dietary modification, if caught early. The underlying cause of DCM is not truly known, but is thought to have a genetic component.”
What is known about DCM:
While the FDA report links grain-free diets in general and some breeds and brands in particular, the FDA and researchers are also clear that they cannot say conclusively what dietary specifics cause DCM. Proportions of peas, lentils, legume seeds and potatoes have been cited. There are many grain-free diets that are not included on the list of the 16 brands recently cited. And there are several grain-inclusive diets on the list. There are also other potential causes that may be responsible for a rise in cases of canine DCM. These include exotic meats such as kangaroo and buffalo and a Taurine deficiency. Taurine is an amino acid essential to the proper functioning of the body.
It is also important to mention that from January 2014 through April 2019 there have been 560 reported cases of DCM and 119 deaths out of the more than 77 million dogs in the United States. Most of the reported cases came from specific breeds, such as Golden Retrievers, who are genetically pre-disposed to DCM. In fact, tens of millions of dogs eat and thrive on grain free diets every day.
Net-net: DCM remains a relatively rare disease and dogs that are not genetically at risk have about a one in a million chance of being diagnosed with it. The jury is still out and the FDA is continuing its work with Veterinary Cardiologist and Vet Nutritionist to better understand DCM and its causes.
We take the FDA report seriously, but also want to caution dog owners to be wary of the scare-tactics spreading like wildfire on social media mixed in among the reliable sources. We recommend reading the actual FDA report for an accurate understanding of the study. Another interesting and detailed read was published in the Whole Dog Journal blog.
While it is very reasonable to be concerned about the FDA report, we want to assure you that HOLI was formulated under the strict guidance of a board-certified veterinarian who has focused her career on dog health and nutrition.
Our research indicated that grain-free foods are less likely to contain allergens and cause food sensitivities. Although true food allergies in dogs are rare, wheat tends to be one of those allergens. Additionally, grain-free foods tend to be easier to digest and customers have reported shinier coats, increased energy, and better stools when switching to grain-free.
As mentioned previously, DCM has been linked to lower levels of Taurine. Most grain- free foods have comparable Taurine levels to grain-inclusive foods. Long before the concern arose, we chose to supplement HOLI Kibble with Taurine as well as the amino acids Cysteine, and L-Carnatine, precursors to Taurine. This not only ensures that our dogs get the Taurine they need, but they also receive the building blocks of Taurine so that their bodies can produce it as well.
In addition to our Superfood Kibble, HOLI offers the highest quality, single meat protein toppers such as Chicken, Turkey and Beef Liver. We never use rendered meat or meat meal. Rendering is defined as “an industrial process of extraction by melting that converts waste animal tissue into usable materials. 4D livestock animals (dead, dying, diseased, disabled) may also be found in the rendering process. Temperatures used in rendering may also alter or destroy natural enzymes and nutritional value of meats. HOLI is prepared in a USDA facility. So you are feeding your dog a food worthy of your trust.
Does HOLI have any plans to formulate a grain-inclusive dog food?
Yes! Holi's mission of delivering the best and most personalized food includes your ability to choose between grain-free and grain inclusive diets. To that end, we are currently working on the addition of a grain inclusive Superfood Kibble. It will be available within the next few months.
Does your manufacturer produce any of the brands linked to DCM?
No. Our manufacturer does not produce any one of the brands named by the FDA as being linked to DCM diagnosis.
Lastly, and importantly, if you suspect your dog has DCM, consult your veterinarian immediately.
Signs of DCM include decreased energy, cough, difficulty breathing, and episodes of collapse.
We would like to thank all of our pet parents for sharing their questions and, of course, for being our customers. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any additional questions and concerns. We hope this has been helpful, and that you and your pets continue to enjoy their HOLI food!
Chow for now!
From the HOLI team