FDA Update on Heart Disease in Dogs & What Should You Do?

< A short link to this post – http://bit.ly/FDA-DCM-Food-7JUL19 >

If you are concerned about the latest news from the FDA and Grain-Free pet foods, please take the time to read this post. Much of what you hear in the mass media is misleading. Here are some of the facts.

  • There is currently no FDA recall of any brand of pet food related to canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).
  • While the loss of a pet to DCM is tragic, there have been only 524 cases reported to the FDA since January 1, of 2014 out of an estimated 77 million dogs in the USA. The number of dogs corresponds to 0.000007% of cases possibly being related to diet.
  • Genetics plays a significant role in DCM, with typically larger breeds being more predisposed. The majority of these reports have been submitted in the last year, suggesting an increase in reporting.
  • While the situation certainly warrants further investigation, there is currently no corroborating scientific evidence that the increased cases in DCM are related to diet.

From the FDA

On June 27, 2019, the Food and Drug Administration issued a press release entitled FDA Investigation into Potential Link between Certain Diets and Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy updating the investigation that began a year ago based on reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating certain pet foods, many labeled as “grain-free.” In my opinion, the most significant statement in this press release is “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.” In other words, there is still much research that needs to be done, and at this point, we can still not draw any definitive conclusions as to the specific cause for the rise in cases of DCM.

Other statements of note in the FDA press release include:

“The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that there are 77 million pet dogs in the United States. Most dogs in the U.S. have been eating pet food without apparently developing DCM.” [ Emphasis added ]

Another puzzling aspect of the recent spike in DCM cases is that they have occurred just in the last few years. The FDA is working with the pet food industry to better understand whether changes in ingredients, ingredient sourcing, processing or formulation may have contributed to the development of DCM.” [ Emphasis added ]

Grain free foods have been available for many years, with increases in DCM only reported recently. As previously indicated by the FDA, the possible link between diet and DCM may be based on a variety of factors, and there is still much research to be done. The FDA press release encourages anyone with a pet that is showing possible signs of DCM or other heart conditions (decreased energy, cough, difficulty breathing, and episodes of collapse) to seek veterinary care immediately. That is excellent advice and will help to further our understanding of any link between DCM, diet, and genetics as well as other possible environmental factors that may be at play.

While the FDA report lists several brands of food that have been reported to have been fed to pets diagnosed with DCM, they did not list all brands nor specific formulas; this is unfortunate. If there is a link between DCM and diet, it would be beneficial to know which specific formulas are involved, as not all formulas of a particular brand may be of concern.

Green Acres Kennel Shop sells food from three of the companies on the list; Fromm, NutriSource, and Zignature. Each of the companies has contacted us, and they want to get to the bottom of this as much as the FDA, maybe even more so. All three are family-owned companies that are genuine pet lovers that have been producing some of the highest quality pet foods in the world for many decades. I have included parts of their responses below. If you would like a full copy of their response, please stop by the store.

NutriSource/PureVita/Natural Planet/Tuffy’sIn addition to your pet’s overall health, transparency is of the utmost importance to us. On June 27, 2019, the United States Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) put a multitude of brands, along with NutriSource, in the position of defending ourselves in a confusing situation about grain-free dog diets and their potential link to canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).

  • The comprehensive health of EVERY SINGLE pet is extremely important to us. We are continuing our efforts to study DCM and closely monitor all the information that the FDA can provide. The FDA’s published updates have not concluded that there is a causal relationship between diet and DCM. [ Emphasis added ]
  • All NutriSource diets include supplemental TAURINE to boost naturally occurring levels derived from our high quality meats and fish. Due to the potential link between taurine-deficiency and DCM, we felt it important to take this step as a safeguard to protect pets until scientific research is complet [ Emphasis added ]
  •  We have committed funds for additional research on our diets and initial results have shown that our products deliver the recommended nutrients to support normal levels of taurine.
  • We have proactively funded independent research at Kansas State University to study pet health including the issue of canine DCM. [ Emphasis added ]

< Click to read Tuffy’s July 1, 2019 message regarding DCM concerns. >


Fromm responseAlthough no conclusive evidence relating diet to DCM has been scientifically substantiated, each of the recipes in our full line of grain-inclusive and grain-free dry foods is supplemented with taurine. In addition, our foods contain ample levels of cysteine and methionine which dogs also use to metabolize their own taurine. All of our grain-inclusive and grain-free offerings are held to the same high nutritional standard, and our variety of recipes allows our retailers and consumers to make buying decisions they are most comfortable with. [ Emphasis added ]

While the FDA continues their investigation, we want our retailers and consumers to feel confident knowing that Fromm has and will continue to follow the most up-to-date research. Our family-owned-and-operated company is dedicated to the health and wellbeing of pets and has been since we began making pet food in 1949.

< Click to read Fromm Response to Updated FDA DCM Complaint Reporting. >


ZignatureWhile DCM impacts less than one percent of U.S. dogs, with .000007% being supposedly related to diet, we recognize that these studies are of critical importance to those families whose beloved dogs have been afflicted by this heart diseases.

As you review the FDA’s most recent report, it’s important to understand the following:

  • The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that there are 77 million pet dogs in the United States. Most dogs in the U.S. have been eating pet food without apparently developing DCM. [ Emphasis added ]
  • The FDA continues to believe that the potential association between diet and DCM in dogs is a complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors and that the actual cause has still yet to be determined.
  • Among all the cases from all brands that were reported to the FDA, the overwhelming majority of impacted dogs belonged to breeds genetically predisposed to DCM, a disease that was first discovered in the 1980’s well before the grain-free diets were available for pets.
  • The FDA issued the June 27th update, even though it has no definitive answers yet, to solicit additional reports from pet owners and veterinarians to help further it’s investigation.
  • Is there a link between exotic proteins and DCM? – Based on the most recent data released by the FDA, and contrary to previous speculation, that does not seem to be the case. Most of the cases (more than 50%) reported to the FDA were for foods containing chicken, lamb and salmon. [ Emphasis added ]
  • How does Zignature formulate its food? – Our meticulously designed diets have been formulated by a thought-leading team of veterinarians, PhD animal nutritionists and veterinary research scientists to deliver the safest pet products on the market that exceed the industry’s AAFCO guide for balanced and thorough nutrition. [ Emphasis added ]

< Click to read Zignature Statement in Response to FDA Findings >

What should we do for our pets?

  • Stay informed and go beyond what you hear or read in the mass media (TV, Radio, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and be a critical consumer of information.
  • If possible, rotate your dog’s diet through several different protein and carbohydrate sources as well as brands of foods. If you are not sure how to do that, ask us. We have been recommending dietary rotation for many years. FMI – http://bit.ly/DietRotation
  • Do not be in a panic to immediately change what you are feeding. However, if you stop by, we would be glad to introduce you to other pet food options.
  • If you have a breed that is already genetically predisposed to DCM, and you are very concerned, strongly consider rotating diet your dog’s diet and possibly including some balanced raw diet or high meat content canned food.
  • Know that there are many pet foods available that are not grain-free; however, also know that there is still no scientifically substantiated link to DCM and grain-free diets. The foods cited by the FDA are primarily kibble or dry foods. Pet food comes in many other formats such as; canned, freeze-dried, and frozen, all of which have many benefits over conventional dry kibble. We have many right here at Green Acres.
  • Never stop reading the ingredient list on your pet’s food nor presume that all pet food companies are equal and are primarily concerned with your pet’s health. We have always preferred the small, family-owned companies that mainly focus on pet food as opposed to the megalithic multi-national corporation. We like companies like; Bravo, Eagle, Fromm, Fussie Cat, Grandma Lucy’s, Health Extension, Koha, Natural Planet, NutriSource, Primal, PureVita, Steve’s Real Food for Pets, Vital Essentials, and Zignature. We are not fans of the enormous multi-national conglomerates that control 70%+ of the pet food industry (Colgate-Palmolive, General Mills, Mars Candy, Nestle Candy, and Smuckers) as in our 25+ years of experience there are much better products available. If you want to know why, stop by and ask us or watch the documentary film Pet Fooled.
  • Purchase your pet food from locally-owned retailers who educate their staff and will spend time teaching you about what’s important when feeding your pet. No big-box store or online pet food marketer offers that same level of customer service or knowledge.
  • Subscribe to our email newsletter, Don’s Words, Woofs and Meows blog, and “Like” and follow the Green Acres Kennel Shop Facebook page. We will be updating this story as we get more information in all three areas.

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog
( http://www.words-woofs-meows.com )

 Shared Blog Post – FDA Updates on Heart Disease in Dogs – Hemopet – Dr. Jean Doddshttp://blog.greenacreskennel.com/2019/04/12/shared-blog-post-fda-updates-on-heart-disease-in-dogs-hemopet-dr-jean-dodds/

UPDATE! – Pet Nutrition – Grain-Free Foods and FDA Reports of Increased Heart Disease in Dogs – WDJ Blog Post – < http://blog.greenacreskennel.com/2018/08/06/update-pet-nutrition-grain-free-foods-and-fda-reports-of-increased-heart-disease-in-dogs-wdj-blog-post/

UPDATE! – Pet Nutrition – Grain-Free Foods and FDA Reports of Increased Heart Disease in Dogs – < http://blog.greenacreskennel.com/2018/07/27/update-pet-nutrition-grain-free-foods-and-fda-reports-of-increased-heart-disease-in-dogs/ >

Grain-Free Foods and FDA Reports of Increased Heart Disease in Dogs – < http://blog.greenacreskennel.com/2018/07/22/pet-nutrition-grain-free-foods-and-fda-reports-of-increased-heart-disease-in-dogs/ >

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show
( http://www.woofmeowshow.com )

Podcast – Is Feeding A Grain-Free Food to Our Dogs Dangerous?, with Linda Case, MShttp://bit.ly/Podcast-FDA-Grain-Free-LindaCase-29SEP18

Web Sites

FDA Investigation into Potential Link between Certain Diets and Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathyhttps://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/news-events/fda-investigation-potential-link-between-certain-diets-and-canine-dilated-cardiomyopathy

Tuffy’s Pet Foods (NutriSource/PureVita/Natural Planet) – A Message Regarding DCM Concernshttps://nutrisourcepetfoods.com/images/content/Tuffy’s%20DCM%20Statement%20(7-1-19).pdf

Fromm Response to Updated FDA DCM Complaint Reportinghttps://frommfamily.com/connect/fda-dcm-20190701/

Zignature Statement in Response to FDA Findingshttps://www.zignature.com/statement-on-dcm/


Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) in Bangor, ME where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC), and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). Don is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) and is committed to PPG’s Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at http://bit.ly/AM620-WZON every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/, the Apple Podcast app, and at Don’s blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.  The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©7-Jul-19, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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Nutrition – Which Brand of Pet Food is the Best? – Part 2

<A version of this article was published in the July 2014 issue of Down East Dog News>

Last month Don discussed how to evaluate the companies making the pet food. This month he discusses how to evaluate individual brands and formulas within a company.

After selecting companies you are comfortable with, the next thing a pet parent should do is to look at the individual foods produced by a company. In this day and age most pet food company’s manufacture and market multiple lines or brands of food. For example, the Natura Pet Food Company, which is currently owned by Proctor & Gamble, manufactures 5 brands of pet food: California Natural, Evo, Healthwise, Innova, and Karma. They do this to meet specific needs (hypoallergenic and grain-free formulas), marketing niches (organic) or various price points (good, better or best).

Pet food companies recognize that budget does matter to pet parents, and they try to offer a food brand in multiple price categories. Unfortunately, because people focus on the price per bag and price per pound, instead of the cost per feeding, these categorizations aren’t always logical. It really can save you money if you learn how to calculate the true feeding cost of a pet food (click here to read: Determining True Pet Food Costs). You will often discover that the actual difference in the feeding cost between the categories is often negligible and the food that costs more per bag actually is a better value.

When choosing pet foods to offer in our store or for personal use, we also look for a brand that offers multiple, adult formulas, with different protein sources that support our philosophy of dietary rotation (click to read Why Rotating Diets Makes Sense). A great example of this would be PureVita’s formulas in which they offer chicken, duck, bison, salmon, or turkey formulas. When we first started talking about dietary rotation many years ago, we quickly became the pariah of many food companies and some local veterinarians. Interestingly, now some food companies also actively promote rotation and many veterinarians recognize that it is not harmful and makes sense.

Other factors to consider are the availability of a pet food brand. The small family owned companies we discussed in my last column typically and intentionally choose to market their products through independent, locally-owned retailers who are knowledgeable and passionate about sharing their knowledge of pet nutrition. They also typically offer a money-back guarantee – if you are not satisfied with the food return it to the retailer for a full refund. They also often offer frequent buyer programs that help that retailer build customer loyalty. Remember when you buy from a locally-owned store you are getting expertise and service and you are also helping your community.

In my next column I’ll discuss looking at the labeling on pet food, specifically the ingredients used.

Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Nutrition – Why Rotating Diets Makes Sense

By Kate Dutra

< Updated 14APR19 >

Change – not a word that many pet food manufacturers wanted to hear, but definite music to our dogs’ ears and overall heath. The change that we are referring to is dietary rotation. When we first began discussing dietary rotation several years ago, many of our pet food manufacturers were livid! Today however, largely to meet consumer demand, many pet food manufacturers now are producing diets within their food lines that are designed for convenient rotation.

For years, the pet food companies have been successfully convincing many of us that changing our pet’s diet will result in digestive upset. And if you ever did try to switch foods, they were quite often proven correct and you would never make that mistake again! But when you step back and think about it from a canine evolutionary standpoint, does it even make sense? Dogs are scavengers. In its feral state a dog’s gastrointestinal tracts should be equipped to handle a variety of different foods in rapid succession – there is nobody providing a slow transition to a new diet.

So what has caused this change in our domesticated dog’s gastrointestinal tract? The answer in short is that, with the help of the pet food manufacturers, we have caused it. Let’s say for example that you purchase a 30# bag of dog food and it takes your dog 6 weeks to eat it. So for 6 weeks, aside from the occasional snack here and there, your dog eats nothing else. You were so pleased with the results of this food, that when you returned you purchased another 30# bag of the same food again and again. So now, for several months your dog has consumed only that one specific type and brand of food. Now I ask, if you were to only eat one thing for several months, even if it was of great quality, and you suddenly changed, would there not be a high probability that you too would be suffering from digestive upset?

The benefits of dietary rotation are many. The first that comes to mind is simply a decrease in food boredom; imagine what it would be like to eat the same thing every day for a week, yet we often ask our dogs to do it for a lifetime. Secondly is that by alternating diets we have the opportunity to broaden our dogs’ exposures to other meat, fat, grain, fruit and vegetable sources, thus introducing different macro and micronutrients for optimal long-term health; with increased exposure comes a healthier gut and the ability to handle a wider variety of foods without digestive upset. Thirdly, by rotating diets we can potentially decrease long term exposure to harmful pathogens and microbes found in some grains which can lead to chronic illness that may not appear until later in life.

Thankfully, many of the pet food companies are now offering lines that give the consumer the ability to easily rotate diets. This however does not mean that you need to stay within a specific brand line, even though the manufacturer wants you to. We actually would encourage the rotation of brands as well as food ingredients whenever possible, as different companies make use of different vitamin packs and sourcing for their primary ingredients. But if you are not comfortable with this, your dog will still benefit from change within a brand as opposed to no change at all.

When you do change you may notice some differences. In some case stools may be smaller and firmer, other times larger and softer. There will be some foods your dog prefers over others and you can note that preference. (I actually had a lab that HATED the duck formulas – go figure)! As you and your dog try out the foods, you will find that you will both develop a preference for certain ones and use those in your rotation. The key is to not be afraid to try something new; the pet food industry is always coming out with great new stuff, it’s not just chicken anymore! Remember, if your dog has a healthy gut and is accustomed to new foods, they will be able to handle the change.

Diet rotation is not for every dog, however. Although rare, there are some dogs with true food allergies that may be best left on the same diet. Others are on prescription diets or have specific health concerns and dietary changes should not be attempted until discussed with a veterinarian. But if you believe your dog would benefit from dietary rotation we encourage you to start today. If your dog has been consuming the same food for an extended period of time, chances are you will have to slowly transition to any new diet, but hopefully with a little patience and some yogurt you will be able to help your dog’s gut develop and regain optimal health, allowing you to transition foods rapidly with little to no mixing.

NOTE: We typically do not encourage rotation of dry diets for cats, particularly neutered males as there is the potential for a change in the pH of the urine which could lead to the formation of crystals in their urine.

Shared Blog Post – Food Transitioning versus Food Rotating: What is the Difference? – Dr. Jean Dodds – 12APR19 – https://nutriscan.org/food-transitioning-versus-food-rotating-what-is-the-difference

©2019, Green Acres Kennel Shop, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>