Labradoodle & Goldendoodle Forum

What the local cardiologists group says about grain free/legume dog food

background: Dinah tested by cardiologist for heart problems was advised to switch to Hills or Purina.  cardiologist was not specific beyond that.

So I try my vets office to obtain food.  I get all sorts of explanation from the vet tech-receptionist? Who tells me it will have to be researched before I order the product!  Later I get an email from one of the vets with more “issues” and a link to the Tufts University and a local group of cardiologists.  What a hornets nest!

i tried copying the webpage for you to read here, but you may prefer the direct link.  Here goes.

Pet Nutrition Resources for Pet Owners, Grain-Free

In July of 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced an investigation of grain-free, dog food diets and a common type of canine heart disease  – dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).  One of CVCA’s board-certified veterinary cardiologists, Steven Rosenthal, DVM, Diplomate, ACVIM (Cardiology), was interviewed for The New York Times article: Popular Grain-Free Dog Foods May Be Linked to Heart Disease. View the links below for additional information and review questions and answers from the FDA here.

CVCA Guidance for Pet Owners

    At this point in time, we are not certain of the exact causal relationship between grain-free and/or high legume diets in atypical dog breeds with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).  Taurine deficiency of these pet foods does not appear to be the primary issue in these DCM patients as we have found normal taurine levels in many of these pets with DCM.  However, in some breeds such as the Cocker Spaniel and Golden Retriever, we have found low plasma taurine levels.

     At this time, if there is not a clinical reason (i.e. food allergies or gastrointestinal upset) for use of a limited ingredient, unique protein source (kangaroo, alligator, bison, etc.) diet, we would suggest using alternative diets.  Consultation with a board-certified veterinary nutritionist should be considered.  Another possible consideration is to use two/three pet foods from different manufacturers including a diet that is not full of legumes (lentils, chickpeas, peas) and has some grain in the product.  As we continue to investigate the link between the increased incidence of dilated cardiomyopathy in atypical canine breeds with grain-free diets, we hope to ultimately determine the definitive issue but, for now, we currently do not have that answer.

Your Dog’s Diet 

Reconsider your dog’s diet. If you’re feeding a boutique, grain-free, or exotic ingredient diets, I would reassess whether you could change to a diet with more typical ingredients made by a company with a long track record of producing good quality diets.  And do yourself a favor –  stop reading the ingredient list.  Although this is the most common way owners select their pets’ food, it is the least reliable way to do so.  And be careful about currently available pet food rating websites that rank pet foods either on opinion or on based on myths and subjective information. It’s important to use more objective criteria (e.g., research, nutritional expertise, quality control in judging a pet food). The best way to select what is really the best food for your pet is to ensure the manufacturer has excellent nutritional expertise and rigorous quality control standards (see our “Questions you should be asking about your pet’s food” post).


Change your dog’s diet to one made by a well-known reputable company and containing standard ingredients (e.g., chicken, beef, rice, corn, wheat). Changing to a raw or homecooked diet will not protect your dog from this issue (and may increase the risk for other nutritional deficiencies).  If your dog requires a homecooked diet or has other medical conditions that require special considerations, be sure to talk to a veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist ( before making a dietary change.  You can contact the Cummings Nutrition Service to schedule an appointment (


Q & A  – Grain-Free Dog Foods

To find many of the questions and answers submitted to us via Facebook, please visit our Q&A page.  Or, check out our Facebook Live video with Dr. Steven Rosenthal here.  

Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University 

American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN)

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA)

Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)

Views: 933

Replies to This Discussion

As you know, we have a few other discussions here on this topic that go into great depth on these issues.
My problem with the information above is that to me, it sounds like it came straight from Purina's marketing department. It's been well-documented that pet food companies have a very string influence on veterinarians, and that there is a conflict of interest involved in vets recommending foods that they sell. When I read statements like "Change your dog’s diet to one made by a well-known reputable company and containing standard ingredients (e.g., chicken, beef, rice, corn, wheat)" , my first instinct is to ask "define reputable", lol. Because to me, Purina and Hills are not reputable. And "well-known" does not equal "quality". "Standard" also does not equal "quality" fact, quite the opposite.

In fact, we already know that these companies have tried this same exact scare in the past with lamb and rice diets, and the veterinary community supported that.  Now it turns out that there was nothing to it, except maybe that Purina, Hills and Mars didn;t want to pay for lamb and rice instead of chicken and corn.

There is no way that I am ever going to tell anyone that they should feed their dog corn or wheat, or a food that contains menadione, which these vet recommended foods do. I will shut this group down before that happens.

We know that menadione will greatly harm and perhaps kill your dog. We know that the foods that most commonly cause allergic symptoms in dogs are the five they listed. We do not know that there is anything in the world wrong with the diets most of us here are feeding. 
Participation in this group is entirely mandatory, and I totally understand if anyone doesn't want to follow my advice or doesn't value my knowledge, research, education and/or opinion. I also understand worrying over a sick dog and having to make hard decisions. Nobody here is going to think less of any frightened owner who follows the vet's advice on food. 
But Purina and Hills are never going to make our recommended list. 

I copied this to let others know just what they’re in for.  This is rough going with the vets becoming overwhelmed as well.

I think holistic vets are probably feeling confused and overwhelmed. I think those vets who put patients' welfare above their own profits are feeling uncertain and overwhelmed. I think the vast majority are feeling thrilled to death that their lagging pet food sales are getting a major boost. 
At the time of the publication of Marion Nestle's (PHD Nutrition) Feed Your Pet Right in 2010, sales of food through vets' offices represented 50% of Hill's annual sales. Half of their total sales. 

Correction to the above: participation in this group is entirely voluntary, not mandatory, lol. 

One of the things that makes the least sense to me about these dietary recommendations is that methionine and cysteine, the two sulfur containing amino acids that are required for taurine synthesis, are present in lamb at the exact same levels as beef. And pork is higher in cysteine and methionine than chicken. One thing I know inside out and backwards is amino acids,  and you can take the above info to the bank, that's how solid it is. Yet these geniuses are telling people that "exotic" proteins like pork are perhaps causing taurine deficient DCM because they don;t contain enough of the sulfur aminos, and they should stick with "standard" proteins like chicken. Um, hello??????

you made me feel, a lot better about eating pork!

I'm glad to make you feel better about something, lol. I know how scary and confusing this can be. 

Even the fairly dumb person (like I am) can see the marketing ploy in this. Who would ever say don’t read ingredients?  Stick to known ingredients like corn?  Really????   I. E.  Only buy our brands. Really?? 

Seriously.... "Trust me, this is good for you! Just eat it!"

Does that sound like legitimate interest for your well-being?

Exactly! No thinking allowed. Just buy Hills or Purina. But how did Hills and Purina fare when pet food was killing animals? (I really don't know, not well I imagine.) 

They're doing the same thing to my profession. Don't think, just follow computer prompts. It disturbs me how much we are letting other things think for us.

Both Hills and Purina were major players in the 2007 recalls. Mars (owners & maker of Royal Canin, another RX brand sold by vets) was even worse. 
And none of the "boutique" brands were among the tainted foods, because they don't use ingredients from China, or food brokers who buy ingredients from China. Only the "well known" (to veterinarians) companies do that, lol.

I was feeding Royal Canin back then, and I really thought I was doing a good thing for my dogs. I never fed a recalled food, and they all lived long and healthy lives, but it was just dumb luck. I didn't know any better then. But it's like they've forgotten what happened, swept it under the rug. And I feel for the people who blindly listen to their vets and don't know any better. I do trust doctors and vets to a point, but there is a limit to what they know. There is value in doing your own research (though I tell people all the time not to Dr. Google their symptoms!) 

I could save a lot of money feeding Purina or Hills, but I feel confident that I'm doing right by my girls. That the food I'm feeding is the best that I can do for them, and that ultimately all of these anecdotal findings are going to turn out to be unrelated to the "boutique" foods. I'm not even sure that the levels of DCM are out of the norm. Perhaps they are just finding them because dogs are getting better medical care than ever before. I know my parents would have been reluctant to see the vet and run expensive tests the way I do. I think there are far more factors at play than what some people realize.



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