Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogsJuly 5, 2019
On June 27, 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued its third status report on their investigation into a potential connection between certain diets and canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a type of heart disease affecting dogs. In this report, the FDA continues to state that no causality has been established between certain diets and the development of DCM in some dogs. Cases of DCM have been reported from dogs that ate dry, wet, raw, and semi-moist foods, and these included both grain-based and grain-free diets. Furthermore, thousands of dogs have eaten the same diets as the dogs stricken with DCM to no ill effect. The FDA states that this is a complex issue with many factors requiring scientific evaluation. At this time, the FDA is not advising dietary changes.
All of our diets are formulated to be complete and balanced and to meet or exceed the nutritional guidelines set by the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). In addition, even though taurine is not considered dietarily essential for dogs, we recognize what an important role it plays in heart, eye, digestive, and reproductive health. This is why we have always supplemented all of our grain-free dog kibble with taurine to ensure optimal nutrition for every pet.
We love our pets and are dedicated to making the safest and highest-quality food for them. We are taking this issue very seriously and will continue to work with researchers to determine the cause of DCM and if any additional preventative measures need to be taken to ensure the safety of all pets.
What is taurine?
- Taurine is a sulphur-containing amino acid that is present in all of our diets and which naturally occurs animal tissues, but absent from most plants. It plays a role in heart, eye, reproductive, and digestive health, and about 60% of the body’s taurine is found in the heart. Cats always require a sufficient amount of taurine in their diet as they do not have the ability to produce enough taurine from other sulphur-containing amino acids to meet their body’s needs. Dogs are capable of synthesizing (making) taurine from other sulphur-containing amino acids, methionine and cystine, in the liver. However, their ability to do this is not well adjusted to their size, which means that larger dogs are at a greater risk of not being able to synthesize enough taurine to meet their needs.
How is taurine related to DCM?
- Canine DCM (dilated cardiomyopathy) is a disease affecting dogs’ heart muscle which results in an enlarged heart. As the heart and its chambers become dilated, the heart struggles to pump and heart valves may leak, leading to a buildup of fluids in the chest and abdomen. The relationship between taurine deficiency and DCM was first discovered in the late 1980s in cats (Pion et al., 1987). Cats diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy were observed to have low plasma taurine levels and were successfully treated by increasing taurine in their diet. Treatment of DCM with taurine has also been successful in certain cases with dogs.
What are the signs of DCM?
- Possible signs of DCM or other heart conditions include decreased energy, coughing, difficulty breathing and collapsing. If your dog is showing possible signs of DCM, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.
What is the cause of DCM?
- Genetics can play a huge role in the development of DCM, which can be caused by a variety of factors. Genetic forms of DCM tend to affect larger-breed male adult or senior dogs. Dog breeds that have been identified or are suspected of having genetic predispositions to taurine deficiency and DCM include Dobermans, Boxers, Great Danes, Newfoundlands, Irish Wolfhounds, English Cocker Spaniels, Portuguese Water Dogs, American Cocker Spaniels, and Golden Retrievers. In addition to genetics, diet and physiology can also be related to the development of DCM.
Can certain diets cause DCM?
- To date, the FDA has established no causality between certain diets and the development of DCM in dogs. Cases of DCM have been reported from dogs that ate dry, wet, raw, and semi-moist foods, and these included both grain-based and grain-free diets. Furthermore, thousands of dogs have eaten the same diets as the dogs stricken with DCM to no ill effect. Another puzzling aspect of the spike in DCM cases is that they have occurred just in the last few years.
Do I need to change my dog’s diet?
- Based solely on the information gathered so far, the FDA is not currently advising dietary changes. If you have questions or concerns about your dog’s health or diet, we and the FDA suggest that you consult your veterinarian, who should consult a board-certified veterinary nutritionist for personalized advice based on your dog’s specific needs and medical history.
Pion, P. D., Kittleson, M. D., Rogers, Q. R., & Morris, J. G. (1987). Myocardial failure in cats associated with low plasma taurine: a reversible cardiomyopathy. Science, 237 (4816), 764–768.