A quick progress update about the research surrounding the FDA's concern over what's causing dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating certain types of pet food. In case you missed it, this is an issue we brought to your attention last summer to clear up confusion with some dog foods' relationship to DCM.
The issue is important because DCM is a form of canine heart disease that can cause congestive heart failure in dogs, even sudden cardiac death. It's significance was highlighted by the FDA taking a rare step of naming names -- backed up by science, of course. UC Davis had originally sounded the alarm and other universities are now pursuing to aid the research.
Like we mentioned in our blog post at the time, the FDA named 16 brands representing the most reported cases. They typically are labeled as "grain-free" (90%), and typically with high levels of peas and lentils (93%). Researchers found that most dogs on this diet had low levels of taurine in their bloodstream. Taurine is an amino acid which is crucial for heart health.
Since then, research has continued on the issue. Of the reports of DCM which appeared to be related to diet, 90% ate grain-free food, but what about the other 10%? What about those cases with DCM that show normal levels of taurine? These and others are really great questions!
More recently, the research has broadened to include a wider scope of foods. Also being examined are foods made in small batch by small companies, and those which contain exotic incredients (duck, alligator, rabbit, bison, etc.), in addition to the grain-free foods heavy in peas and lentils. There's even an acronym term for this broader scope. The term now being used is "BEG" diets, which is not a play on what your dog may do at your heels while you're at the dinner table. It stands for "boutique," "exotic" and "grain-free." The point is the research scope has broadened.
Another change is switching from thinking about finding the most common commonality (or the 90%) to thinking about the issue in a more complicated way. Scientists and doctors refer to it as a 'multi-factorial' approach, which recognizes that multiple factors may be at play, particularly for the other 10%. Perhaps some of these BEG foods somehow inhibit taurine uptake, or interfere with how the body absorbs amino acids, or interfere with how the body utilizes those amino acids.
Yet another factor is that some animals may be genetically predisposed to this path, which might explain why some are super quick to develop the food-related DCM in just a few months. These are all questions being examined now.
As you can tell, this is a topic we're very interested in. It's not because we offer these types of products -- quite the opposite. We only sell prescription food. As we mentioned before, if you get your food from us, particularly a special diet, rest easy on that score.
Given that we do not currently offer any BEG diet products, we may seem a little disproportionately fixated on the topic. When it comes to concern for what goes into our clients' pets, focus is appropriate. We may not offer it, but some clients may use it. Plus, we are always interested in "food as medicine" as a topic.
It goes without saying that if you have concerns, or questions, or want to screen to be sure your animal isn't developing DCM, please feel free to ask your veterinarian. We will also keep you posted once in a while here too.