Dogs Might Be At Risk For A Serious Heart Problem If They Eat Certain Grain-Free Dog Foods

    The foods in question contain peas, lentils, and other legumes, or potatoes, as their main ingredients.

    There may be a link between certain legume- or potato-based commercial pet foods and a dog's risk for developing a serious heart condition, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

    The FDA isn't releasing the names of particular brands, but the dog foods that may be a potential concern are those that contain peas, lentils, or other legume seeds, or potatoes, as their main ingredients. These ingredients are more likely to be found at high levels in grain-free dog foods, although the agency said they don't know for sure if these specific ingredients are the problem.

    However, these foods seem to be linked to cases of canine dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs that wouldn't otherwise be susceptible to the condition. Canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a disease of the cardiac muscle that results in an enlarged heart. The weakened heart struggles to pump blood, which causes fluid to build up in the body and may result in congestive heart failure.

    DCM appears to have a genetic component and is usually seen only in certain breeds, like cocker spaniels, or large breeds such as boxers, Great Danes, Newfoundlands, Irish wolfhounds, Saint Bernards, and Doberman pinschers.

    But the FDA reported that cases are being seen in dogs that normally aren't at risk for DCM. The federal agency said there have been cases in golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, whippets, a bulldog, and other small-breed dogs, including a shih tzu, miniature schnauzers, and mixed breed dogs. The dogs generally ate these types of foods as their main source of nutrition for months or years before the diagnosis.

    Some of the dogs had symptoms of DCM like coughing, trouble breathing, a reduction in energy, or episodes of collapse. Some, but not all, of the dogs also had low blood levels of an amino acid called taurine, which is a known risk factor for DCM.

    “These reports are highly unusual as they are occurring in breeds not typically genetically prone to the disease,” Martine Hartogensis, deputy director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine’s Office of Surveillance and Compliance, said in a statement.

    “The FDA is investigating the potential link between DCM and these foods. We encourage pet owners and veterinarians to report DCM cases in dogs who are not predisposed to the disease.”

    The good news is that, when caught early, canine DCM can be treated with dietary changes and medication. You can report pet food complaints directly to the FDA.