Grain-Free Diet in Dogs

So many questions have come up recently around what is best to feed our canine buddies. While many things are still being studied, there are certain things we are clear on at this point.

The FDA recently came out with a report that Grain-Free foods are linked to a certain type of heart disease.  Veterinary Cardiologists and Nutritionists started to notice a trend in young otherwise healthy dogs having Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) or an enlarged heart.  This disease can be genetically linked or nutritionally linked to Taurine. Taurine is an amino acid that animals get through diet. Cats are very
sensitive to taurine deficiencies and will develop this heart disease when not fed commercial cat food or supplementing their diet.

When the cardiologists started noticing this disease, they began testing taurine levels and many were low.  They also noticed that most of these dogs were on a grain-free diet. Once switched to a different diet and supplemented with Taurine many started on a long road to recovery.  Even more interesting, some dogs with normal Taurine levels started to improve as well when switched to a new diet and in some cases, Taurine levels would skyrocket.

The nutritionists started to study what was going on.  While we still don’t know all the mechanisms of taurine intake, the one we have found is grain-free diets made with peas and legumes which are binding up the Taurine making it unavailable for dogs leading them to be more predisposed to DCM. There are also other diets that are linked to this disease that are grain-free without peas and legumes and some boutique diets that even have grain in them.

We are still learning about this process and how we can improve overall nutrition. In the meantime, we are limited to what we can recommend for your pet. Currently, there are only a few recommended diets that meet the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) Guidelines.  These are Purina ProPlan, Hill’s Science Diet, and Royal Canin. These diets have undergone additional testing to ensure this food is safe. At our house we feed Purina Proplan and it is 8 paws approved!