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Grain-free Pet Diets: What You Need To Know About Feeding Your Pets

A girl smiling at her phone while petting a golden retriever

Are you feeding a grain-free diet to your pet? Grain-free diets are food plans that swap out grains for other nutrient-rich foods, including legumes, peas, potatoes and lentils.

Increasing numbers of pet owners are becoming aware — and skeptical — of the grain-free fad. If your pet has tested positive for a grain allergy, you may want to look into grain-free diet options. However, if this isn’t the case, you have more than enough reasons to be skeptical of the trend.

What Is Dcm?

Between January 2014 and April 2019, there have been 524 case reports of diagnosed Dilated Cardiomyopathy, or DCM, in pets. These findings, reported to the FDA, were found to have links to grain-free diets of some sort in dogs, cats and other animals. DCM is a type of heart disease that causes heart muscles to devitalize, making them incapable of pumping blood where it needs to go in the body.

What Kinds Of Dogs Are Most Susceptible To Dcm?

In the past, DCM was most often found in certain breeds — Dobermans, Great Danes, Boxers and more. Today, the disease has been detected in breeds that weren’t known to get it in the past — breeds like Golden Retrievers, Shih Tzus, Bulldogs and Schnauzers.

What Is The Link Between Grain-free Diets And Dcm?

The majority of dogs reported having DCM are on a grain-free diet of some sort. Today, Cardiologists investigating the trend are not sure what exactly is causing this link. It could be that a chemical compound in these foods is causing DCM to appear, or maybe it’s the lack of the amino acid Taurine. Historically, Taurine has been shown to cause this type of heart disease in cats.

A dog plays outside with a ball at his house.

What To Do If You Think Your Dog Has Dcm?

To err on the side of caution, you may want to steer clear of grain-free diets for your pets, unless they have been tested positive for grain allergies. At University Animal Clinic, less than one percent of our food allergy pets develop an allergy to grains. Keep in mind, our food allergy dogs make up less than 10 percent of our population, which is quite a small number.

If you are having concerns about your pet and cannot come into our clinic, check out the World Small Animal Veterinary Association’s website. This is an outstanding resource that presents information about DCM and grain-free diets in a way that’s easy to understand. We’d also suggest sticking to larger food brands for your pet because they have scientists and nutritionists behind them.

If you think your pet has DCM, contact a veterinarian for a thorough physical examination at our University Animal Clinic immediately. Symptoms of DCM include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Pale gums
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing
  • Fainting and weakness

Get The Best Treatment For Your Pets

If you suspect your pet may have DCM, don’t hesitate to call University Animal Clinic at 941-355-7707 or schedule an appointment online. We’ll be more than happy to assist you. We serve the areas of Sarasota, Bradenton and Lakewood Ranch and can examine your pet for DCM and answer any questions you may have about grain-free pet diets.