Danger - Danger!
Until Further Notice:
Please do NOT feed any of the Grain Free dog foods to your pet!
July, 2019.... FDA Update - for a list of foods NOT to feed your dog - please refer to this FDA website: Click Here!
July, 2018.... We recently sent out an email to all of our clients who have dogs as members of their families. The FDA has warned that there is probably a link between certain "boutique grain free dog foods" and the development of a potentially fatal heart disease known as Dilated Cardiomyopathy or DCM. This disease typically affects certain breeds (Dobermans, Boxers, and Great Danes) and is typically seen in middle age and older dogs. The local cardiology specialty group (Chesapeake Veterinary Cardiology Associates - CVCA) has seen a number of dogs that are suffering from this heart disease and they seem to be younger dogs and not the typical breeds. At present the thought is that these dogs are all eating "Grain Free" dog foods that contain Peas, Chick Peas, and Lentils as their primary carbohydrates. There are no specific brand names that have been implicated yet.
So, what do we do? The FDA actually issued a warning on July 12, 2018 and stated that the exact cause is yet unknown, but these dogs were all eating "Grain Free" diets. In general, grains are not harmful to the majority of dogs. The Grain Free diets are simply a fad. That is not to say that some dogs have conditions that seem to improve by feeding Grain Free foods, but the great majority of dogs do not need to have grains removed from their diet.
To make it even worse - it is really difficult for most dog owners to know which is the right food for their dog. There are so many choices out there and all of the dog food companies will claim that THEIR food is the best for your dog! In reality, there is probably no ONE dog food that will be perfect for all dogs. Dog food manufacturers are trying to sell their foods. Their primary desire is to make a profit. I am not saying that their intentions are not good, but many of them do not seem to put as much time and money into research as perhaps they should.
Many clients try to decide on a food by looking at the ingredient list on the can or bag. Unfortunately, you cannot evaluate the quality of a food by its ingredient list. Long term feeding trials with appropriate blood tests and physical examinations are the ultimate way to determine whether a food is "good" or "bad" for an individual. Most dog food companies are not willing to do these long term studies. AAFCO guidelines have been established to help food manufacturers, but they are not really enforced. Companies can choose to "meed AAFCO guidelines" or they can go above and beyond and actually test their diets with their own testing. Many food companies do not even employ a board certified veterinary nutritionist, yet they push their "special" dog foods on the public.
Our hospital usually recommends that you choose a dog food company that has shown longevity and one that has maintained a good reputation for a long time. We usually try to stay away from dog foods that seem to be available from only a small number of suppliers. Many of these "specialty" dog foods have not been on the market long enough to really establish their safety or quality control.
If you sincerely feel that your dog needs to be on a Grain Free diet perhaps you should consider one of the limited ingredient diets or novel protein diets available from reputable companies like Hill's (Science Diet), Purina (ProPlan), or Mars PetCare (Royal Canin, Nutro, Iams) or one of the veterinary prescription diets that your vet might recommend.
As a service to you, I am adding some additional links that you might find helpful:
CVCA Feeding Guidelines
FDA Pet Foods
WASVA Food Recommendations
AAFCO Pet Food Labeling