This is kind of “old” news now, but the science is still not solid as to why. Why are some dogs that are fed BEG diets (boutique, exotic, grain-free) developing dilated cardiomyopathy?? What’s that you say? It’s like the heart starts to get thin and the heart muscles cannot contract properly, like a saggy balloon. The dilated part refers to the stretching of the wall of the right ventricle of the heart (one of those four chambers if you can recall from high school biology), then the walls are thin and weak. When the wall is weak, the forward flow of blood out of the heart is reduced, and there is backing up of blood on its way to the heart from the rest of the body, leading to congestive heart failure.
I say it’s old news, because the FDA published a list of diets that may be associated with this type of heart disease last year. Yet, owners are still not aware when I ask them about the food they feed. It’s not just the fact that they are grain-free, but also high in legumes (pea based diets). VETGirl had posted the article yesterday on her LinkedIn feed, so that brought me here to the blog, because it's still current news.
We still don’t know how it’s happening exactly. But asking what type of food your dog patients are eating is important to know from a risk-prevention standpoint. There are soooo many diets out there. There is also not a lot of standards for pet foods. People are more and more looking at the ingredient list and deciding based on marketing of ‘whole’ foods or ‘raw’ or first-ingredient is meat, instead of wondering if the diet is formulated properly by a veterinary nutritionist. At least with the FDA posting a list of diets, I have somewhere to refer to. Additionally, I point owners to the Pet Nutritional Alliance ‘Dare to Ask’ survey, and tell them to find a diet that is formulated by a nutritionist.
Not all heart diseases you can hear with you stethoscope. When owners say their dog is fine, and I do hear a heart murmur, I got into a lengthy spiel about heart disease and what to watch for. At least if I have done my part to inform them, then if something does happen, I did my part. I cannot control what owners do for their pets, I can only educate.