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Your Pet’s Diet

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Hello Noah’s Ark friends. I’m writing to you today with information regarding recent news stories about certain pet foods causing heart disease in our animals. I’m sure it’s no secret that there are a lot of options and opinions about pet food circulating out there. And for good reason! We all want to know we’re feeding a diet that will keep our animals healthy and happy for as many years as possible.

In recent years, grain-free, raw, and other novel types of diets have been more widely available. In general, most veterinarians including the Noah’s Ark vets have not recommended these diets because the companies that produce them do not typically have the science and nutrition nor the testing to back up their recipes. On the other hand, we also haven’t actively recommended against them either. We’ve all had patients that we suspect had soft stool or other stomach upset due to these newer style foods that we changed to a traditional diet, but there was nothing we felt was dangerous to the animal.

Unfortunately, in the last few months, new information has come out that these diets may have more serious repercussions. Namely, “boutique”, homemade, and raw diets may be the cause of a serious heart condition called Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) in some animals. This condition is a stretching and enlarging of the heart muscle that can result in congestive heart failure and death.

Some breeds have a known genetic predisposition to DCM such as Dobermans and Great Danes. However, in the last few years, dogs from breeds not genetically predisposed to the condition are being diagnosed with DCM in much higher numbers. So far, the common link found in these cases is the feeding of alternative diets. Veterinary cardiologists and nutritionists strongly suspect these diets are the cause for this rise in DCM although they are not sure why. It has been proposed that it could be lack of a certain ingredient, interaction between ingredients, an unknown substance in the food- so far, we’re just not sure.

Many of you reading this are probably feeding your dogs these diets- don’t feel bad! The good news is that most dogs will not develop heart disease from these foods. Cardiologists suspect genetics play a role in this as well. However, there is no way to determine which dogs will and which dogs will not get DCM. For this reason, we will continue to recommend against grain-free, “boutique”, and raw diets and recommend Hill’s Science Diet, Royal Canin, and Purina ProPlan or Purina One foods for our patients. Science Diet and Royal Canin are probably not surprises, but yes, Purina, too! All of these companies produce high quality, thoroughly tested foods, and they are three of a very small number of companies that study the long-term health of dogs eating their foods through feeding trials.

Below are two links to articles from the veterinary school at Tufts University that explain more about the connection between boutique foods and DCM:

A broken heart: risk of heart disease in boutique or grain-free diets and exotic ingredients

It’s Not Just Grain-Free: An Update on Diet Associated Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Please call us at the clinic (816) 361-6822 to discuss any questions you have, and stay tuned for a future discussion of pet foods and what makes a pet food high quality.