Vet Blog

Is Your Pet’s Food A Heartbreaker?

January 25, 2024

The latest about grain-free diets and heart disease

If you feed your pet a grain-free or “boutique” diet—such as home-cooked meals or food with unusual ingredients and proteins from a small manufacturer—you may want to reconsider. Veterinary cardiologists, nutritionists and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are currently investigating a possible link between those types of diets and the development of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs. DCM can result in abnormal heart rhythms, congestive heart failure and even sudden death.

What you need to know:

Initially it was thought that those diets might be responsible for a deficiency in taurine, an amino acid essential to heart health in pets. However, most of the pets who have been diagnosed with DCM are not lacking taurine—but all of them were being fed grain-free diets with alternative fillers such as lentils, legumes, and potatoes, home-cooked foods, or a kibble made with a more exotic protein such as kangaroo, duck, or bison. This leads researchers to believe that the uptick in DCM cases is related to a grain-free or unusual diet.

By the way: there is no nutritional proof that a grain-free diet is better for pets, and grain allergies are very uncommon in dogs and cats.

So what should you feed your pets?

  • Unless your pet has a diagnosed grain allergy, it’s advisable that you discontinue feeding a grain-free, exotic protein, or “boutique” diet from a small manufacturer with little research behind it.
  • Choose a well-researched commercial pet food made by an established manufacturer that contains common ingredients, including grains. 
  • We highly recommend foods such as Purina Pro Plan and Royal Canin, as they have been extensively tested to provide your pet with a well-balanced diet.

What to watch for:

If you’ve been feeding a grain-free or boutique diet, be alert to early signs of heart disease in your pet, such as weakness, inability to exercise, shortness of breath, coughing, or fainting.

Should you have questions about what diet is right for your pet, or think your pet is showing signs of heart problems, please don’t hesitate to speak to your Garden Valley veterinarian or call us at (970) 674-5105.

Click here to read more about this issue and the ongoing research.