WSU veterinarians urge caution amid concerns specialty diets could be causing heart disease in dogs

With the Food and Drug Adminstration just recently cautioning pet owners that some brands of specialty dog foods may be linked to increased risk of heart disease in your pets, the veterinarians at Washington State University says it’s a trend that they’ve been seeing over the last several years.

Those speciality foods fall under what they call BEG diets, or boutique, exotic and grain-free diets.

“Any dog on a BEG diet is at risk,” said Dr. Pamela Lee, a cardiologist at the teaching hospital, “but it’s not all diets with exotic ingredients, or grain-free ingredients, and it’s not all dogs.”

The correlation she says is that more dogs that are being fed BEG diets are coming in with dilated cardiomyopathy, but it’s not entirely clear what is causing those symptoms.

“We don’t have a good answer right now,” she said, “is it a deficiency in nutrients? Is it a combination of things, where all the nutrients are there but something else is binding to them and not making them available. We don’t really know and it could be a lot of factors.”

She says more research needs to be done to come to any conclusions, especially because not all dogs eating the diet express DCM symptoms.

“That is when the heart is enlarged and not pumping well,” she said, “usually your the heart should pump vigorously, but what we are seeing with nutritional heart disease is the heart is pumping feebly.”

She said in moderate cases dogs will begin having trouble exercising and have trouble breathing as their body fills with fluids. In severe cases, it can lead to heart failure.

Lee does recommend taking your dog off a BEG diet, assuming its not on one for other medical reasons, and switch to a diet made by a well-established manufacturer with standard ingredients, like chicken, beef, rice and wheat.

If your dog is on the diet and appears to be struggling take them to a vet for guidance as soon as possible, as the symptoms can be reversed if caught early.

“In mild to moderate cases, its likely to return to normal with the changing of the food and diet supplementation,” she said.

She notes that the top three brands associated with DCM are Acana, Zignature and Taste of the Wild and encourages any pet owners who’s dogs may be struggling with nutritional heart disease to report it to the FDA so that it can be included in future research.

Other brands named in the FDA report for having a link with DCM cases include, 4Health, Earthborn Holistic, Blue Buffalo, Nature’s Domain, Fromm, Merrick, California Natural, Natural Balance, Orijen, Nature’s Variety, NutriSource and Rachael Ray Nutrish.

Click here to go to the WSU School of Veterinary Medicine’s website for additional information.

Click here for more information on the FDA website.

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