FDA Announces Dog Food Brands That Could Cause Heart Failure

In 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released a report that confirms the link between “grain-free” dog food and Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs. The FDA received 542 reports of DCM noticed in 560 dogs and 14 cats in the period between January 2014 and April 2019.

These reports suggest that the occurrence of this condition doesn’t depend on the size of the pet. Some of the cases included smaller and unsuspected breeds that weren’t previously linked to this condition. The initial report provided a link between dog food and DCM.

Canine DCM

Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy is one of the most common heart conditions in dogs. Cats usually develop hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. In dogs, this condition is manifested through an enlargement of the upper and lower chambers of the puppy’s heart, which affects its ability to pump out blood to the rest of the body.

DCM also causes weak contractions, leaky valves and fluid buildups in the thoracic cavity and abdomen. This condition results in partial or total congestive heart failure.

The FDA reported that out of the 560 cases of canine DCM reported to the administration, over 119 died. The administration notes that “grain-free” dry dog food and treats that contain lentils, potatoes, peas and legumes are the products you should look out for.

This heart condition is most common in Newfoundlands, Irish Wolfhounds, Doberman Pinschers, Great Danes, Boxers, Saint Bernards. An updated report from June 2019 suggests that the Golden Retriver is the dog breed with the highest frequency of this condition.

The breed is followed by mixed breeds, Labrador retrievers and smaller breeds like the Shih Tzu. Other dog breeds include Border Collie, Afghan Hound, English Cocker Spaniel, Flat-coated Retriever, Boston Terrier, Beagle, Belgian Tervuren, Bull Terrier, English Springer Spaniel, Chihuahua, Dalmatian, Australian Cattle Dog, and others.

Brands to avoid

The administration advises dog owners to consult their vet before feeding their pup with dry food. It all depends on the brand, says Steven M. Solomon, D.V.M., M.P.H., director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.

The numbers of the following food brands are actually the frequencies of occurrence of these brands in case reports on a scale of 1-80.

  • Acana – 67 
  • Zignature – 64 
  • Taste of the Wild – 53 
  • 4Health – 32 
  • Earthborn Holistic – 32 
  • Blue Buffalo – 31 
  • Nature’s Domain – 29 
  • Fromm – 24 
  • Merrick – 16
  • California Natural – 15 
  • Natural Balance – 15 
  • Orijen – 12 
  • Nature’s Variety – 11 
  • NutriSource – 10 
  • Nutro – 10 
  • Rachael Ray Nutrish – 10

The opinion of pet owners

Most of the owners were disappointed, because some of the brands were the better dog foods.

The Director of General Medicine and Internal Medicine at Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston says that the veterinarian is the best person to give pet owners an advice on dog food.

Symptoms of DCM

Pet owners didn’t know much about the symptoms of DCM, and they thought it was related to genetics. The symptoms may vary in every breed, but the most common symptoms include:

  • Lethargy
  • Shortness of breath
  • Increased heart rate
  • Pale gums
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coughing
  • Anorexia 
  • Fatigue
  • Excessive breathing

Treatment of canine DCM

Experts say there’s no treatment that will cure the condition permanently, and there’s no medical guarantee. Depending on the stage of the DCM, some pups recover well, while others are unable to go back to their normal life.

The treatment includes stabilization and diuretics that will drain excess fluid from the system. ACE inhibitors are also used to lower blood pressure. Cardiac glycosides lower heart rate and boost contractions and vasodilators dilate blood vessels. Bronchodilators are used to ease breathing.