As pet parents, we want to provide the best for our dogs. After all; we want our loyal and loving companions to live healthy, long lives. For the past several decades, most pet parents have switched to grain-free dog food varieties for their dogs and for a good reason too. Up until now, we were made to believe that dogs cannot digest grains since evolution did not make their digestive tracts suitable for grain-based foods. However, a new study by the FDA is proving otherwise. The administration has even published a list of grain-free dog foods that could have a link to canine heart disease.
In this brief guide, we will try to understand the link between grain-free food and cardiomyopathy in dogs. We will also discuss a list of pros and cons of grain-free dog food followed by the FDA dog food list – foods that have been recurrently seen in diets of dogs diagnosed with cardiomyopathy.
What are the pros and cons of grain-free dog food?
- Grain-free dog food is recommended for sensitive dogs having skin or/and digestion issues. Many breeds like poodles, golden doodles, cocker spaniels, and beagles are known to have food allergies. Gluten based foods can harm their sensitive stomachs causing symptoms like flatulence, hair-loss, severe itching, vomiting, and loose/watery stools, etc.
- Good quality grain-free foods provide real nutrition to dogs. Many grain-based foods are filled with corn and other grain-fillers that simply increase the food’s weight without adding any real value to your pet as far as nourishment is concerned. Grain-free foods, on the other hand, contain a healthy amount of protein and amino acids which are known to benefit your pets.
- Diets high in gluten can cause blood sugar imbalance and triggers an excess of insulin in the body.
- Some vets believe that wheat-based diets in canines can cause an addictive effect meaning that wheat-based diets lead to unhealthy hanger pangs or a craving for foods containing gluten. This could lead to behavioral issues as well as obesity in dogs.
- Grain-free dog foods can be expensive when compared to grain-based foods.
- They may not be nutritionally balanced since grains contain vitamins and minerals. So, it is very important to choose a nutritionally well-balanced formula.
- Grains provide roughage so a lack of grains could constipate your dog. Low-fiber diets are also linked to irritable bowel and colon diseases.
- Whole grains provide a ‘mopping’ action and remove the bad cholesterol in clogged up arteries. This could benefit your pets and make their hearts healthier.
Grain-free dog food and cardiomyopathy
Almost half of the dog food brands available in the market today are grain-free. It is not surprising to note that people started making the switch to grain-free foods at the same time that they went on Paleo, Keto, or other low-carb and low-grain diets. However, the FDA is now warning that this may not be the smartest thing to do. A few weeks ago, the FDA issued a warning that grain-free food for canines could cause a disease called canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in pets. They based their findings on studies conducted on about 500 dogs that were fed low-grain or zero-grain diets.
Some veterinarians have always maintained that not all dogs need grain-free diets. They believe that such diets only benefit breeds that are at a risk or have confirmed allergic reaction to gluten or grains in general.
Tons of misinformation
A few years ago, doctors and celebrities went on record claiming that grain-free diets were the best for weight loss. Several people who followed these diets also reaped their benefits. Many people lost weight and some even saw other positive effects like reduced blood-sugar, more energy, etc.
Some doctors also went on to state that wheat and gluten led to heart-related issues. In people with celiac disease, there was a higher risk of developing heart-related conditions. As a result, a low-gluten diet reduced this risk.
However, a 2017 study is now ‘rubbishing’ these reports. The study now states that low-gluten diets can increase one’s risk of heart disease. It followed more than 100000 people who had no celiac disease or heart disease at the start of the study. The study concluded that, once all other risk factors were ruled out, people’s gluten-consumption did not enhance their risk of developing heart-related conditions.
It is no wonder that this misinformation and confusion has even spread to the canine world. Many well-meaning social media users and pet parents have often taken to online platforms to spread information without any scientific backing. Additionally, new studies keep on popping up from time to time and whatever humans apply to themselves, they sometimes blindly apply to their pets too.
In reality, there is no conclusive evidence that gluten is bad for dogs and humans. We simply do not have the complete facts. And yet we see people scrambling to find foods without corn, wheat, barley, and oats for their dogs.
FDA dog food list – foods with possible links to heart disease in dogs
DCM or Dilated Cardiomyopathy can lead to congestive heart failure in dogs. The FDA is now keeping an eye on certain food brands that have repeatedly come up in their findings on dogs with DCM. Scientists have studied the diets of nearly 600 dogs diagnosed with DCM and they found that these dogs were mostly fed diets low in grains but higher in lentils or peas. Based on these studies, the FDA released a list of dog food brands that dogs with DCM were usually known to consume:
- Taste of the Wild
- Earthborn Holistic
- Blue Buffalo
- Nature’s Domain
- California Natural
- Natural Balance
- Nature’s Variety
- Rachel Ray Nutrish
Note that these foods are NOT on the Recall List yet. The FDA itself cautioned that these studies are not yet conclusive and that more research is needed to see how grain-free diets impact DCM. However, the organization has gone ahead and published the DCM dog food list because it has an obligation to pet-owners who need to know which brands have been frequently linked with the condition.
All this information can be extremely confusing to dog lovers. Pet parents are bound to be clueless as to what the best dog food is for their beloved pet. As with any kind of diet, it is best to speak to a vet before making any drastic changes. If your pet has been doing well on grain-based or grain-free foods, then continue feeding it to them. Also check out these healthy and balanced home-cooked dog food recipes.