A Comprehensive Update on Food-Related Cardiovascular Disorders in Pets

Key Takeaways:

  • There has been an increase in heart disease conditions such as dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in pets, particularly dogs and cats, which may be linked to certain types of pet food.
  • The Center for Veterinary Medicine is conducting an in-depth investigation into the possible connection between DCM and certain pet foods, urging pet owners to consult with vets on the best diet for their pets.
  • Typically, DCM affects larger breed dogs but smaller breeds have also been affected suggesting other potential causes beyond genetics.
  • The majority of DCM linked products are grain-free, contain peas and/or lentils, and are often dry foods. The link between these diets and DCM is still under investigation.
  • The regulatory body encourages pet owners and veterinary professionals to report cases of DCM suspected to be related to diet.

With increasing instances of heart diseases in pets associated with certain types of meals, preventative and corrective measures are under way by various responsible bodies in the food and health industry.

Increasing Frequency of Pets’ Heart Disorders

Investigations recorded over 500 incidences of heart conditions in dogs and cats, associated with specific pet food types. These disease cases of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) – comprising 515 dogs and 9 cats – were noted from January 2014 to April 2019. More than one pet from the same household were the subject of some of these reports, suggesting that the total number of affected pets may be higher than documented.

A Highly Concerning Issue

Dr. Steven Solomon, leader of the Center for Veterinary Medicine, expressed his concern, “A sudden diagnosis of a potentially fatal condition like DCM in your previously healthy pet can be heartbreaking. This is why we are devoted to conducting a thorough investigation into the possible connection between DCM and certain pet foods.”

The pursuit of this issue enjoys top-priority status at the center for Veterinary Medicine. As they uncover more details about this matter, the public will be updated, reiterated Solomon.

In the interim, he urged pet owners to work closely with their vets to determine the most suitable diet for their pets’ needs, due to the undetermined nature of the link under investigation.

Unravelling DCM

Canine DCM is a condition affecting a dog’s heart muscle, often resulting in congestive heart failure. The underlying cause of DCM isn’t clear, though genetic factors are suspected. Typically, the disease affects large and giant breed dogs such as Great Danes, Newfoundlands, Irish wolfhounds, Saint Bernards, and Doberman pinschers, but smaller breeds have also featured in numerous DCM cases reported to the center, introducing the notion of other possible causes beyond genetics.

In July 2018, a potential correlation between canine DCM and specific dog food types was proposed by the food regulatory body. Its latest update namechecked the most regularly identified dog food brands connected with DCM incidences.

Involved Brands

The brands and the corresponding numbers of connected DCM cases are: Acana, 67; Zignature, 64; Taste of the Wild, 53; 4Health and Earthborn Holistic, 32 each; Blue Buffalo, 31; Nature’s Domain, 29; Fromm, 24; Merrick, 16; California Natural and Natural Balance, 15 each; Orijen, 12; Nature’s Variety, 11; NutriSource, Nutro, and Rachael Ray Nutrish, 10 each.

Common Features of Involved Products

The common features of these products are that over 90% of them were grain-free (without corn, soy, wheat, rice, barley or other grains), 93% contained peas and/or lentils, 89% contained peas, 62% contained lentils and 42% had potatoes or sweet potatoes. The protein sources in these pets’ diets spanned chicken, lamb, salmon, whitefish, kangaroo, turkey, beef, pork, venison, duck and bison, eggs, and vegetarian, rabbit and goat food.

The majority (452) of the linked DCM products were dry foods, with minor representations from raw food, semi-moist and wet. The connection between these diets and DCM in some dogs is still under investigation.

As a call to action, the regulatory body urges pet owners and veterinary professionals to report cases of dogs and cats with DCM suspected to be diet-related.

Further Information

For more knowledge on canine DCM, consider checking out resources available at Cornell University.

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