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The Truth About Grain-Free Diets: Friend or Foe?

With so many different pet food brands and formulations to choose from, picking a pet food for your dog can be overwhelming. Amidst all the marketing that promotes trendy diets, boutique pet foods, exotic ingredients, and grain-free formulations, understanding the recipe that’s actually healthiest for your pet’s species, size, age, and lifestyle is almost impossible without some guidance from an actual veterinarian. Additionally, recent evidence seems to indicate that some of these specialty diets, namely grain-free pet foods, could actually be harmful to pets.

What's So Troubling About Grain-Free Dog Food?

Grain-free pet foods have grown in popularity and availability over the past several years. Since then, veterinarians began to notice a sizable increase in the number of dogs suffering from a heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). Dogs with DCM have stretched-out, thin and weakened heart muscles that aren’t able to efficiently pump blood.
Certain breeds have a genetic predisposition to developing DCM, but veterinarians began to observe the condition more frequently in breeds without an inherited risk.

The FDA's Grain-Free Pet Food Investigation

As a result of the increased prevalence of DCM, the FDA opened an investigation to look into the safety of grain-free pet foods. After receiving hundreds of reports from veterinarians and pet owners, they found that 90% of dogs with DCM were being fed a grain-free diet and 93% of the dogs with DCM were eating foods that contained lentils, peas, or other legumes in the top ingredients.
The FDA also tested the foods in question for amino acids, minerals, and metals and found no significant abnormalities.

So, Is Grain-Free Pet Food Safe?

While the findings seem to link grain-free diets and their common ingredients with DCM in dogs, the correlation isn’t entirely understood.
Numerous reports show that many dogs with DCM have either improved or been cured after being taken off of their grain-free diets and being given taurine supplements. It seems that ingredients such as lentils might block a dog’s ability to use the amino acid, taurine, and this might lead to the development of DCM. However, this is not always the case. Many dogs have died in spite of interventions.
Although the findings are inconclusive, there’s no evidence of harm occurring when dogs a diet that includes some grains.

Nutritional Counseling with Our Houston Veterinarians

When selecting a food for your pet, the best place to start looking is at Tanglewilde Veterinary Clinic. Rather than face the overwhelming number of pet food choices stocked on the shelves of your nearest pet supply store, our veterinarians will help you assess your pet’s individual nutritional and dietary needs and provide you with a specific pet food recommendation.
To learn more and discuss the special needs of your pet, we welcome you to contact Tanglewilde Veterinary Clinic today.