Dog food under FDA investigation after potential links to serious form of canine heart disease

BySteve Daniels WPVI logo
Saturday, June 29, 2019
Concerns over link between dog food, canine heart disease
Study raises concerns about link between dog food, canine heart disease.

The FDA is warning dog owners about a possible link between certain dog food brands and a serious form of canine heart disease.

The FDA's newest 78 page report revealed that more than 90% of the 500 plus dogs that contracted the disease, also known as dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), maintained a grain free diet. 93% of those diets also included peas and lentils.

"DCM itself is not considered rare in dogs, but these reports are unusual because many of the reported cases occurred in breeds of dogs not typically genetically prone to the disease. Additionally, most of the cases ate diets that appear to contain high concentrations/ratios of certain ingredients, such as peas, chickpeas, lentils and/or various types of potatoes. Some of these were labeled as 'grain-free,' but grain-containing diets were also represented," the FDA said.

Between January 1, 2014 and April 30, 2019, the FDA received 524 case reports of diagnosed dilated cardiomyopathy. Some of these cases involved more than one animal from the same household. In the reported cases, there were 560 individual dogs diagnosed with DCM and 119 of those dogs died. There were 14 individual cats, 5 of which died.

The FDA identified these dog food brands as the top-three most frequently reported DCM cases:

  • Acana
  • Zignature
  • Taste of the Wild

Click here for the full list of dog food brands and more information from the FDA.

They have not asked for these companies to issue a recall, however.

"The FDA has not yet determined the nature of the possible connection between these foods and canine DCM, so we do not have definitive information indicating that the food needs to be removed from the market," the FDA said.

The FDA also said dry food formulations have by far the most reported cases of DCM.

DCM was most frequently seen in Golden Retrievers, followed by mixed breeds and Labrador Retrievers.

While the FDA report hasn't concluded how certain diets may be associated with DCM in some dogs, officials said they felt a responsibility to notify the public.

"The FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) felt a responsibility to shed light on a signal that we have been made aware of and to solicit reports from pet owners and vets that may know of related cases. The data provided through reports will help inform the investigation," the FDA said.

According to the FDA, DCM is a disease of a dog's heart muscle and results in an enlarged heart. As the heart and its chambers become dilated, it becomes harder for the heart to pump, and heart valves may leak, which can lead to a buildup of fluids in the chest and abdomen (congestive heart failure). If caught early, heart function may improve in cases that are not linked to genetics with appropriate veterinary treatment and dietary modification.

What signs can you look for in your dog?

"If you're noticing any kind of coughing, exercising intolerance, lethargy, those are some signs you can sometimes notice," said Dr. Katie Koehler, associate veterinarian at Bowman Animal Hospital and Cat Clinic.

Click here to read the FDA report.

Other Useful Links:

Questions & Answers: FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine's Investigation into a Possible Connection Between Diet and Canine Heart Disease

Compilation of all the DCM reports submitted to the FDA through April 30, 2019