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To Grain or Not to Grain...That is the question.

What is all this grain free hoop-la??

Heart disease is one of the common ailments in our companion animals. Some breeds of dogs are over-represented, but on average it will affect 10-15% of all dogs. As veterinarians, we are always trying to assess risk factors that may cause such diseases as heart failure. Recently, there have been reports that diet may be one of those risk factors. The diet in question…grain free diets.

As a general veterinary practitioner here in Roswell Georgia, one of the most common conversations we have in our exam room pertains to diet. Many companies seem to put more emphasis into marketing and popular trends, instead of the quality of their diet. This can be quite frustrating for veterinarians. As a consumer, you are inundated with information about what ingredients are the best or certain ingredients will be the downfall of your dog. Unfortunately, almost all of the information is a  marketing ploy and not backed by science or the authorities in nutrition.

The main type of heart disease that is being linked to these grain free diets is dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).  This is a serious disease of the heart muscle which weakens the heart’s ability to contract and causes enlargement of the heart. Recently, some veterinary cardiologists have been reporting increased rates of DCM in dogs and suspicion is growing that this disease may be linked to boutique or grain free diets. A key factor for developing this disease may be related to a taurine deficiency, but other factors are also being considered. Currently, veterinarians at UC Davis veterinary school are investigating this association between diet and heart disease. Overall, the consensus by cardiologists is that the incidence of DCM does appear more likely to occur in dogs eating boutique, grain free, or exotic ingredient diets.

So, what should you do? I would reconsider our dog’s diet. If you are feeding your dog a boutique, grain free, or exotic ingredient diet, I would consider a change to diet to something with grains and a reputable, long-standing company. Ideally, this company would have a veterinary nutritionist on staff to ensure high quality. If you have questions ask one of us at Chattahoochee Animal Clinic. We are more than happy to help guide you in choosing the best diet for your dog.

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