Labradoodle & Goldendoodle Forum

Saw this in Doodle Family on FB and wanted the experts opinion.

Grain-Free Feeders - PLEASE READ:

We all know how difficult it is to make decisions regarding diet for our pets. I am sharing this information not to add additional worry or concern but to educate. I came across this yesterday when it was shared by a vet dermatologist in another group. I have been trying to get additional information since then and joined the Facebook page linked to the taurine deficiency research being conducted by Dr. Joshua Stern (vet cardiologist) at UC Davis. Here is what I know so far:

* DCM (dilated cardiomyopathy) is a serious medical condition that impacts the muscles of the heart and reduces its ability to pump blood.
* Symptoms include lethargy, weakness, weight loss, collapse, coughing, increased respiratory rate, abdominal distention, irregular heart rhythm.
* Some breeds seem to have a genetic predisposition including Cocker Spaniels and large breed dogs particularly Golden Retrievers, Labradors, St. Bernards and Newfoundlands.
* Current research (not yet published) has identified a link between grain-free dogs foods that include peas and legumes and taurine deficiency that can lead to DCM. On the Taurine Deficiency page, the most commonly reported foods from owners of dogs with DCM are: Nutrisource, Acana (particularly pork and butternut squash), 4Health, Zignature, Taste of the Wild, Earthborn Holistic.
* It is believed that the peas/legumes may inhibit some dogs ability to produce or absorb taurine.
* The current recommendation is that if a food heavy in peas and legumes is being fed, consider a whole blood taurine test before any dietary changes are made. If the blood results indicate taurine is low, echocardiography is recommended.

I know that many of us use these foods and some of us have limited options in what to feed our dogs. I just wanted to bring this information forward and encourage you to discuss with your vet/IMS to decide whether this could be a concern for your pup.

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Replies to This Discussion

Well, there are several things here that I would question. 

First is the statement in the original post that "They suspect most grain free formulas and/or legume-based diets (peas, beans, lentils, chickpeas, alfalfa) may be causing this problem because they either lack an adequate amount of Taurine in their formula"
It is not possible that "most grain free formulas" would cause a taurine deficiency, because ALL raw diets are grain free, and supposedly, that is what they eat "in the wild". But in addition, all of the raw feeders, along with the many thousands if not millions who feed a grain free diet of any kind would be seeing this disease. 
In addition, the taurine levels in all AAFCO foods are measured, just as the volume of all of the amino acids in the foods are measured, and must be adequate before the food can be AAFCO approved. 

In addition, none of the food on our recommended list are "legume based" diets. All are animal protein based diets. Legumes make up a very very small percentage of the ingredients. 

But beyond that, the biggest problem with this statement is that taurine is NOT an essential amino acid for dogs. Just like humans, dogs make their own taurine and do not need to get it from their food. 

It's CATS that can't make taurine and need to get it from their diets.

Taurine deficiency in dogs is usually caused by either a genetic condition that rubns in certain breeds, or by cystinuria, a kidney condition affecting protein absorption. 

I would need to see the research "that has not yet been published", but I have not been able to find any reliable information showing that legumes interfere with taurine absorption. I'm also wondering who funded this study. "Grain-free" is not synonymous with "contains lots of peas and legumes". Pea flour is an ingredient that is used in many formulas that DO contain grains, so the wording of this, along with the singling out of certain brands (gosh, if we didn't have Zignature and Acana Singles, more of us would need to buy Rx foods for dogs with food sensitivies)  makes me suspect that BIG DOG FOOD is behind it. And since we also know that BDF unduly influences the veterinary community's dietary recommendations, I suspect that somebody "up there" is a little worried about the effect some of the independent brands are having on their market share.

Dilated cardiomyopathy is mainly a genetic disease, one that runs in certain breeds including Standard Poodles.

These stories about grain-free diets, peas, legumes, taurine, etc have been circulating on-line for at least a year that I'm aware. Leave it to a FB group to get people panicking about something that as far as I can see has no basis in fact. 

This is the first I had seen on this and while I didn't panic, lol, I knew exactly where to come to find out if I should!  Thanks so much for taking the time to respond.  I appreciate it.

The voice of reason! Thank you, Karen, for shedding some light on this before I had the chance to panic.

Karen, thank goodness you responded so quickly....I went into a panic because Atticus is thriving on Zignature and prior to your response, I was just about to contact you in a panic.......After losing my beloved Paz at such a young age, I try to do everything possible to promote Atticus' good health.

I am just so angry at these people in these FB groups spreading this kind of misinformation. They may think they are helping someone, but they are causing harm.

Please, use FB to socialize, to share photos, but NOT for information on health related issues, including diet. 

I can't find where taurine levels are a requirement of AAFCO, is there a link I can read?

They are not, because taurine is not an essential amino acid; dogs (and humans) make it ourselves.

Here are the AAFCO required levels of the essential amino acids for dogs:

Methionine-cystine is what taurine is synthesized from. 


I am so glad to see your response to this scare about taurine deficiency. I have a 31/2 year old english golden retriever and a 2 year old goldendoodle. I have had them on orijen(puppy, original and trim and fit) since they were both pups. I thought I had them on the best dog food available. Recently I got a email from the golden retriever breeder that she has switched all her goldens to the royal canine food for GR from Orijen because of the lack of taurine in orijen and being grain free. This is so confusing to me and now I'm panicking. I know you are very knowledgeable about nutrition and your response makes sense. I had always heard that grain free is the best way. I have always heard that dog's don't need taurine, just cats. So is it in the dog food, but just not listed? I hate to switch them, especially the GR since she is very sensitive to any food changes. But, i do want the best for my dogs and give them all the chances for success without cancer or other problems because of diet.

What do you think about Royal Canine food? What about Victor?

Thank you so much!


Lori, taurine is an amino acid that dogs (and people) make themeselves from other amino acids. Cats can't do this, which is why they need taurine added to their diets. The amino acids that are required in order for a dog to synthesize taurine are methionine and cysteine, two essential amino acids that are known as sulfur containing amino acids, are found in abundance in all animal protein foods- beef, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, fish, etc. As long as the diet provides enough animal proteins, it is not necessary for a healthy dog's diet to contain supplemental taurine. There is no "lack of taurine" in Orijen, because it is very heavy in animal proteins and therefore, has all of the aminos any dog would need. 
I imagine that the GR breeder has been frightened by all of the false info out there on the internet, in FB groups and elsewhere (Grain-free Diets Cause Heart Disease!!!!, that kind of scary misleading info). I have learned through many messages from other dog owners that the vast majority of people who are seeing these kinds of posts and articles are not understanding what they are reading. 
Cancer has nothing to do with this, BTW. More than 60% of all Goldens will develop cancer at some point, regardless of what you feed them. Things like lawn chemicals play a much more significant role in cancer preventative than any kind of food. of course, there are some artificial preservatives and colorings in some pet foods that do increases the risk of cancer, but none of those are recommended here in this group. I do have to say that most of those foods are made by the same people who make Royal Canin (Mars) and Purine Pro-Plan. 
I don't know much about Victor, and would have to research their products before recommending them, but there is really no reason for you to be concerned or to switch foods. IMO, you are already feeding the best food you can for your dogs. 

Karen, I am very interested in your opinion of Victor as well. I started feeding my girl Victor beef and brown rice because she has been itchy I think from chicken. I looked into the company some before starting her on it. It's a Texas company that's been in business since 1950 and has never had a recall. That in itself meant a lot. If you have a minute or 2, because you know more of what to look for and what makes a good dog food, I would so appreciate your opinion. Thanks so much. This food also is more affordable. My girl seems to like it quite a bit, too.

I can look at Victor, but in the meantime, let's talk about food allergies. Only one dog in 100 has any kind of a food allergy; food allergies are rarest form of allergy in dogs, contrary to popular opinion. And there is absolutely no way to diagnose them other than an 8-12 week food trial. If someone suspects that a dog has an allergy to chicken, there is no need to switch brands of food, all you have to do is switch formulas. For example, if I'm feeding Fromm's Chicken a la Veg (chicken and rice), my dog gets itchy and I suspect a food allergy, I can switch him to Fromm's Salmon a la veg or any other formula. If I think it might be the rice, I can switch him to one of the grain-free formulas in the same line of Fromm foods. The same is true if a dog has digestive issues and you think it must be the food. Remember that it's impossible to be allergic to a brand. It's also impossible to have an intolerance (more common than actual allergies) to a brand. It would be to a specific ingredient or combinations of ingredients. 
That said, did the itching stop when you switched to Victor? And what was she eating before? 



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