THE FDA ARE NO LONGER LINKING GRAIN-FREE DOG FOOD TO DCM
In September last year, we dug deep into a controversial issue: the suspected link between grain-free dog diets and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a rare type of canine heart disease. In 2018, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) begun investigating reports of DCM in dogs eating certain grain-free pet foods which contained a high proportion of peas, lentils and other legumes (pulses). This received a new bout of public attention when a 2021 study blamed these ingredients, used to replace grains in dog food, for increased instances of DCM. The researchers speculated that peas and maybe lentils might make it harder for dogs to make or absorb taurine, an essential amino acid for healthy hounds. Because lots of vegan dog foods contain ingredients like peas and pulses, this report was used to attack meat-free as well as grain-free dog diets. All despite the fact that good quality vegan dog food diets add additional taurine (and its precursor, methionine) to mitigate any potential loss via legumes or lentils. Look at THE PACK’s nutritional composition and you’ll see that each can contains 1000mg of DL-Methionine and 400mg of Taurine, on top of the plant-based proteins that your dog can use to make these amino acids themselves. It’s worth noting that methionine and taurine are expensive to add, so the cheap grain-free meat-based dog foods may well be a far riskier option when it comes to DCM!
Thankfully, this is a moot point, because in December 2022 the FDA admitted that they have “insufficient data” to establish peas, lentils or legumes – or indeed lack of grains – as the cause of the DCM case reports. After instances of dogs with DCM rapidly declined, the agency decided to end routine updates on their investigation, saying the cases of dogs with DCM “do not supply sufficient data to establish a causal relationship with reported product(s).” The FDA also said that they don’t intend to release any further notices about the issue “until there is meaningful new scientific information to share.”
Of course, there’s never been any meaningful scientific evidence to prove that either peas, pulses, or lack of grains cause DCM: it’s all just speculation. The 2021 study only looked at the pet foods already associated with DCM, so it’s more likely that these specific diets simply weren’t formulated to provide the right nutrients. Furthermore, many of the foods tested had been stored open for months, allowing them to degrade. A scientific paper in Journal of Animal Science three months later concluded “The use of plant-based proteins as ingredients in canine and feline diets not only meet consumer demand but also provide a valuable, safe, and nutritionally adequate alternative to traditional protein sources.”
It’s interesting that the FDA’s December update was not issued as a press release, like their previous grain-free pet food/DCM updates. Without fanfare, this crucial information was simply added to the top of a 3-year-old press release. For pawrents who’ve spent years worrying about the risks of DCM and needlessly avoiding grain-free foods, this isn’t really good enough! We hope that this blog will bring reassurance to THE PACK community and signal that this scaremongering debate is finally over.
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