Vet Blog

Specialty Diets and Heart Disease in Dogs

May 29, 2019

Some time ago veterinarians were noticing an increase in a specific heart disease, Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM), in dogs fed specialty diets.

This increase in DCM wasn't noticed in typical breeds that get DCM due to genetics - mainly giant breeds like Irish Wolfhound, Great Dane, Doberman Pinchers, or Boxers. These new cases were in dog breeds that do not get DCM. Ultimately, an association with diet was noticed in these new cases. Most were being fed that Dr. Lisa Freeman, veterinarian, and nutritionists call BEG diets - Boutique companies, Exotic ingredients, or Grain-free diets. It's common for owners to think what is good for us is good for our pets, but that's not always true.

We think carbohydrates are bad, or that chickpeas and lentils are better than common ingredients, or that gluten allergy extends to our pets, so we want to provide better nutrition. Pet food companies are good at trying to get us to spend more for "healthier choices", but often these new items are not really tested. For example, dogs are not believed to develop gluten allergies regularly.

Nutritionists have not determined what the causative factor in these diets is, but the point is BEG diets might not be safe. Dogs don't need grain-free or exotic ingredient diets. I suspect this is due to a lack of an, as of yet, unidentified amino acid (protein) in the BEG diets. For example, cats need extra taurine and pigs need a lot of lysine, or else they have health problems.

Ultimately, pick high-quality diets from high-quality companies. Canine nutrition is extremely well researched in general. Most of us would be much healthier if we ate as well as most dogs do. Discounting BEG diets, I believe you get what you pay for in dog food, but even high-quality dog food is relatively cheap. For example, expensive dog food is $2-3 per pound. Try getting a McDonald's quarter-pounder for that, how many pounds of food do you get at Outback for $3?

Currently, there are many great dog food company choices. We sell Science Diet because it is one of the best, but Iams, Royal Canin, and high-end Purina make great foods.

Pick a superior company or product, avoid BEG foods, and don't think about it anymore unless your pet has a specific diet-related health problem. Use your energy instead for a dog walk or just throw the ball a bit.