Grain-free dog diets big topic among vets

Ask the Vet

Q: I am hearing different things from friends and neighbors about their dogs eating a grain-free diet. One neighbor says it’s good to feed grain free, but the other says it can cause problems. My Maltese just eats regular dog food – should I be feeding her something else? T.B, Farragut

A: There is a lot of talk in the veterinary community right now regarding grain-free diets. Last year, veterinary cardiologists started noticing a link between dogs being fed certain diets and a form of heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy.

DCM can occur in any dog but tends to occur in breeds such as boxers, Dobermans and cocker spaniels. Specialists grew concerned after noticing an increase incidence of the disease in breeds not typically affected by DCM.

Dog foods have changed greatly in the past 8 to10 years, with more diets being grain free. Diets of affected dogs had a commonality of potatoes, lentils and peas and/or containing exotic meat such as kangaroo and alligator. It is unclear if it is the actual ingredients, the amount of the ingredients or a biochemical reaction of the ingredients within the individual that is leading to an increase in DCM. Studies are still being conducted, as much is still unknown.

Many cardiologists are now recommending their heart patients be fed a diet with grain. But what about dogs that don’t have heart disease? Dog owners, especially those with dogs predisposed to heart disease or having food allergies, should consult with veterinarian regarding their pet’s diet.

More information will hopefully be available later this year.

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