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Here’s what we know so far about the FDA investigation on grain-free diets.

What’s Going On?

On July 12, 2018, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued a brief stating they are investigating recent reports of a type of canine heart disease known as dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs not genetically predisposed to the disease. The brief cited a theory that some dogs with DCM may have been fed certain types of diets, and that further research was being undertaken to determine if that theory had merit. That research is expected to take several years and has not been completed. The agency issued an update on its investigation on February 19, 2019 and again on June 27, 2019.

Is it affecting a lot of dogs?

There are an estimated 77 million dogs in the US today. Between January 1, 2014 and April 30, 2019, 524 case reports of DCM were sent to the FDA. That’s less than 0.01% of all dogs.

What is canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)?

DCM is a specific type of heart disease that, in dogs, results in an enlarged heart and can be serious if left untreated. Some dog breeds, such as the Doberman Pinscher, Great Dane, Golden Retriever, Boxer and Cocker Spaniel, are genetically prone to this disease. Symptoms of DCM include a decreased appetite, lethargy, coughing and collapse. Dogs displaying these signs should be taken to the veterinarian immediately. The FDA’s investigation is specifically focusing on DCM and not canine heart disease as a whole.

What role does diet play in DCM?

The exact cause of recently reported incidents of DCM has not yet been identified, but genetic predisposition is known to be a highly contributing factor to DCM in dogs in general. It is possible that multiple factors play a role, including pet food formulation, ingredients, processing and individual pet physiology. One area the FDA is investigating is the possibility that ingredients and formulations in certain dog food recipes may play in the development of DCM in some dogs.

Is grain-free pet food safe for my pet?

Millions of dogs continue to eat and thrive on grain-free dog food. The FDA’s investigation focuses on certain ingredients that figure more prominently in some pet food products labeled as grain-free, including legumes, like peas, other legume seeds and potatoes. The FDA has not identified any established link between certain ingredients and incidents of DCM. The exact cause of these cases of DCM is still unknown and may be the result of many factors. If customers have a question about their dog’s food, we recommend they contact the manufacturer, or visit “Nutrition from Nose to Tail” to learn more about the nutrition in a dog food recipe: https://www.petfoodinstitute.org/nosetotail/

Should I avoid certain ingredients or grain-free dog food as a whole?

The FDA stated in all three updates of their investigation, including the most recent June 2019 update, that the agency does not advise any dietary changes based solely on the information gathered so far.

Should I be concerned if my pet’s food contains one of the ingredients mentioned by the FDA?

The FDA has not linked any specific pet food or ingredient to incidents of DCM and has not requested removing or recalling any pet food from the market. It is important to make sure the food you are feeding your pet is formulated to be complete and balanced for a pet’s life stage. If you have additional questions related to a specific ingredient, we suggest reaching out to the pet food manufacturer. For concerns about your pet’s health specifically, we recommend reaching out to your veterinarian.

Can I continue to feed my dog the same food, or do I need a supplement?

If your pet is currently doing well on their food, there is not an immediate reason to make a change. If you have questions, we recommend consulting your veterinarian. If concerned, a switch to a grain based diet within your current brand of pet food might be suggested, or another grain-in food. It is also a good time to consider raw food. For precaution, pet families have the option to give their dog a Taurine supplement, which contain Taurine and other amino acids that support heart health and healthy production of Taurine. Our store offers both Herbsmith and InClover supplements for dogs.

Are pet food ingredients safe?

Yes. As makers of the sole source of nutrition for America’s pets, Pet Food Institute members hold pet food safety as the number one priority. U.S. pet food makers use ingredients that have been accepted by the FDA, meet the agency’s Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) standard, or have been recognized by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). For more information about how pet food and its ingredients are regulated, visit: https://www.petfoodinstitute.org/pet-foodmatters/commitment-to-safety/pet-food-regulations/about-aafco/

What should I do now?

We encourage you to be patient and stay informed as the FDA continues its study. It’s a very fluid situation. Check back here for updates, speak to a store associate, and consult with your veterinarian on an on-going basis. We’re doing the same on our end – consulting with specialists and manufacturers all over the world and staying as informed as we possibly can. Millions of dogs are eating and thriving on grain-free diets, and most are made with higher quality ingredients. The well-being of your pets (and our own loved ones) is our number one priority, and we’re committed to offering safe and healthy products for all.