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Grain Free Dog Food and Heart Disease

September 11, 2018
By: Dr. Clifford Peck

Could the food we feed be hurting our pets?

The endless search for healthier pet food to help our pets live longer and healthier lives may have become a bit harder. Within the last few years, the trend in human nutrition towards low carbohydrate diets and the concerns about gluten sensitivities has created a demand in the pet food industry for "Grain-Free Diets".

 No evidence exists that for a dog or cat without food allergies(sensitivities) that these foods are actually healthier, but, this has not prevented a huge shift in the pet food industry towards these foods. The common link in these owners is a tremendous passion and commitment to their pet’s health and comfort. Many veterinarians, myself included, have avoided the grain-free diet conversation as there was no compelling concern against it and these owners appeared so committed to their diet choices.

Now that may have changed.

There is no conclusive data to link grain-free diets to this unusual presentation of cardiomyopathy, however, with the significant circumstantial relationship, an evaluation of the reasons behind feeding these foods may be needed. Every pet is unique and has unique dietary needs. A pet on a grain-free diet to help prevent or control a known food allergy is probably fine to stay on that food (This is the situation with my own dog). A pet on a grain-free diet with no medically documented need for this diet may be best switching to more traditional food or at least supplementing the grain-free food with a traditional diet on a regular basis. In time, we will know more about the relationship between these foods and this form of heart disease, but for now, a bit of caution is advisable.

If you have questions you can visit the FDA's website at https://bit.ly/2x9c1cY, the local veterinary cardiologist website at https://www.cvcavets.com/for-pet-owners/nutrition-grain-free/, or schedule an appointment with a Veterinarian at Forest Creek Animal Hospital. Be sure to bring the label from your pets’ food or a copy or picture of the ingredients.

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