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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 (acvn.org) before making a dietary change.  You can contact the Cummings Nutrition Service to schedule an appointment (vetnutrition@tufts.edu)

 

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)




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Replies to This Discussion

  Today I resolved to be more observant than ever before.  What I saw was that she still tires at about the same time for play.  This tells me her condition is unchanged.  The quick recovery compared to previous play has me thinking that the tyrosine is helping the heart muscle.

I hope dear friends that this running commentary is giving you some ideas to work with in regards to your own dogs.  

The vet did not expect real change to take place for 6 months...so that’s the time it must take for the heart to become smaller if in fact it was “a food thing”.  My thoughts run along the line that Dinah does have “something” of a heart issue that was made worse by the diet.  At any rate, I’m grateful for any improvement in her health.

Today I returned to a organic boutique for dogs.  I told the owner my needs and she suggested “nature’s Logic” 100% natural diet that I serve with some water to create gravy.  Dinah thought it was weird at first, but after the mixture mingled, she gobbled it down.  Curious to see if it’s on the “approved dog food list”.

I was not familiar with Nature's Logic. I just looked at the website and will have to do some investigating before adding it to the recommended brands list, but I can tell you that the ingredients are 1000 times better than the corn and by-products in that Royal canin you were feeding.
One caution, though. If you are using the kibble, do not add water to it. Adding water to kibble is one of the risk factors for bloat. The kibble formulas I looked at contained chicken fat as the third ingredient; chicken fat appearing in the first 4 ingredients is another risk factor for bloat. You don;t want to compound that risk by adding water. There is nothing in this world worse than bloat...not heart disease, not cancer, nothing. 

If it's the raw frozen diet you're using, adding water should be fine.

Karen is water to kibble (aka bloat) for all kibble or just RC?  My sisters vet tells her to add water to her dogs kibble because dogs don't get enough water on a daily basis?  I have a massive water bowl that empties every day so I don't agree but then my sister lives right on the ocean so the dog may not be getting enough fresh water?  If that's the case for all kibble I'd like to warn her, she has a GR and newfies. TIA

Adding water to any kibble that has fat in the first 5 ingredients, or that has citric acid in it, can increase the chances of bloat. It's ridiculous for a vet to say that "dogs don;t get enough water on a daily basis." That doesn;t apply to all dogs. Some are big water drinkers, some aren't. There are better ways to get some water into them if they don;t drink enough, including replacing part of their kibble with wet, fresh, or frozen raw food. 
And of course, the safest thing for dogs who are prone to bloat is to have a gastropexy done. I wish more vets would educate their clonets on that. 

If it is suspected diet related DCM there are supplements recommended.  I'd double check with the cardiologist.  

I know there are other effected dogs being fed Nature's Logic.  We are using Farmina Ancestral Grain, it does contain some supplementation: DL-methionine 4000mg; Taurine 1000mg; L-Carnitine 300mg.  We also give supplements as directed.

thanks, Melissa!

Karen, You are spot on in regards to gas with these ingredients.  But sad to say, Dinah now has a 25? Lb bag of Nature’s logic, she’s no fun to sleep under my bed or in it!  She is a gas factory. OTOHand, ol’ Royal Canin did not cause gas...and this is bad enough gas that I will not get the chicken meal flavor again.  The time I tried putting some water in it did indeed cause what I thought looked like distress, so I stayed up till the wee hours and walked her until she had a bowel movement. Somewhat better following that.  I’ve since added additional probiotics with little improvement.  Argh.  Now I know what living with a bulldog is like!

LOL.
Have we talked about VSL#3 probiotics? 

Updating —-December 17th 2018. Almost a month later—-not completely happy with Nature’s LOGIC, chicken based.  Even though Dog Food Advisor gives high marks, I question why they include exotic dog ingredients such as rosemary, dried apricot, dried pineapple extract.  Do they think they are impressing me with these exotic foods?  A dog wouldn’t find these in the wild.  I can give them a pass on the spinach, parsley and apples and maybe the cranberries.  I’d love to know which of these unusual ingredients gave her loose stool and gas despite the probiotics both in the food and as a supplement. Always had firm stools on all of the food brands so far from puppy days.  Taste of the Wild (most flavors all grain-free, and the possible cause of her heart issues), Royal Canin, Beneful, several flavors of Stella and Chewey’s Toppers. A couple of sample food packets.  Never gas or loose stools.

Dinah has the classic mini poodle issues with bad dental health.  This past week her teeth were cleaned with non sedation dentistry.  While I waited in the waiting room I noticed two products imbued with enzymes to improve mouth bacteria.  One was a white flat “chew” (she rejected this pricey item), and the other is Royal Canin dental formula dinner.  I have been using a spray enzyme that works pretty well.  I am grateful she isn’t too much of a chewer...but she doesn’t really eat the Greenies either.  It’s worth a shot as I learn to do the tooth brushing and she gets used to it.

Play and recovery have remained about the same level after the initial improved recovery time reponse.  We play for 10 minutes.  The vet said to check after. 6 months from first echocardiogram Oct. 30th.

We have two more echoes yet to be performed (as soon as I can afford to).  You may want to be sure and read the more recent updates from Tufts, Dr. Stern's study, and the retroactive study released.  All were in the last 30 days.  Based on them, and in coordination with our cardiologist, we have switched dog foods. I have lost faith in Farmina.  I would check back with your cardiologist and see if they have seen the new updates and any changes in their recommendations.  The FDA will be releasing an update in the first two weeks of the year.

Karen?

I have no info or opinions other than what has already been said. I guess we will wait and see what these updates have to say. 

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