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Diets and Heart Disease in Dogs and Cats

Updated: Jun 30, 2022

Beth Innis, DVM / Originally Written: July 8th, 2019:

We currently do not have an update on this topic.


Dear Beloved Sleepy Dog Clients,

Many of you have heard about the concerning link made between heart disease and grain free diets.  It has emerged that some dogs (and a handful of cats) not thought to be at hereditary risk for developing heart disease were cropping up with the serious disease dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).  Concerns centered on diets with peas and lentils as a major ingredient.   The FDA most recently published an update on dog food brands implicated, sadly many of which were on on our list of favorites.  This is tricky as many of our patients have food allergies, so we are already limited in what we can offer them.

Here are some articles in the news on this topic:

Here is a reference from the veterinary community:

The FDA restated: "Based on the data collected and analyzed thus far, the agency believes that the potential association between diet and DCM in dogs is a complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors.”  Therefore, diet may not be the root cause, or the whole cause.  

Chinese medicine tells us that grains are NOT a bad thing; it also dictates that fresh food is best.   I have traditionally counseled my clients that optimal food is home cooked, then dehydrated, then canned, then raw.  The majority of cases in this recent studied were dry. 

The old adage is also true, variety is the spice of life!   It is a great idea, if your pet is able to roll with it, to rotate between brands and between ingredients.  Just like us, they get different things from different types of food.  We just have to introduce these changes slowly (over 2-3 weeks).

I posted a query on my alternative medicine message boards and reached out to my favorite cardiologists and nutritionist, and valued fellow alternative medicine practitioners, to gain more information. 

My favorite boarded nutritionist (who is certified in acupuncture as well) recommended rotating foods, both home-cooked and commercial, and not to panic as the likelihood of heart disease is still very low.

  My favorite cardiologists differed in what they recommended; one recommended sticking with the traditional veterinary diets in general, the other to use them when medically needed, screen "at-risk" dogs for taurine levels and echocardiograms and keep a clear line of communication on our goals with food.  

The best general advice I’ve read so far is if your pet’s diet is based around peas or legumes, switch to something with grain.  If you are concerned but your pet is not showing signs, consider an ultrasound of his or her heart to evaluate and blood taurine levels drawn by your veterinarian.  If, at any point, your pet shows weakness, difficulty breathing, exercise intolerance or collapse, please have him or her evaluated immediately.

We can all work together to find the best information as it comes in and feed our pets the best we know how.  This may mean a different nutritional paradigm for everyone!  

Please know that you take wonderful care of your pet and we can work through this together!    

Much love to you and yours, Dr. Beth, Dr. Liu and the Sleepy Dog Dream Team

If you have any questions please call our office at (781) 643-2162.

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