Archive | July, 2019

Why the FDA report on DCM in dogs has more bark than bite

14 Jul

The thought that dog foods could be causing heart conditions is a terrible thing to consider.

Recently, the media has been reporting on the fact that the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) is investigating a potential dietary link between canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and dogs eating certain grain-free dog foods. The foods of concern are those containing legumes such as peas or lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes listed as primary ingredients.

I’d like to ease your mind about this.

When I read the FDA report, I found that most of what we’re seeing in the media is either a simplistic interpretation or just outright wrong.

Most critically, the FDA report does not say there is a direct link between any food and a dog developing DCM.  It’s simply one possibility that they are looking at, along with genetics and other environmental factors.  Exploring whether there is causality is not the same as there being causality.

Second, the reports in the media make it seem like there are an awful lot of dogs developing this issue, when the percentage of dogs in the US that have been reported to have it is actually 0.00065%, which includes dogs that are already predisposed due to breed and age.  Let’s put that in numbers.  There are estimated to be about 5.9 million dogs in Canada.  That means that of our 5.9 million dogs, if we saw the same percentages as in the States, we would see 38 dogs develop this issue.

Finally, the reports in the media seem to indicate this is becoming a very rapidly growing problem.  Again, if you look at the FDA report, we see that isn’t the case.  In fact, the rapid increase in cases being reported is not due to increased number of dogs with DCM, but an increase in reporting as a result of this issue being released to the public.  The “cases” themselves are varied and include not only legitimate, thorough reports from vets and owners, but also those that think their dog or cat may have or have had DCM with no data provided (such as food source, breed, age or other vital information) to make their report valid or useful.

Let’s recap.

  1. The FDA report is looking into if there is causality between grain-free dog food and heart conditions.  It hasn’t determined if there is a direct link as of yet.
  2. This is being portrayed as impacting lots of dogs, whereas the percentage is actually quite low, something like 1 in every 153,000 dogs.
  3. Media reports that stress how this is becoming a very quickly growing problem are confusing increased reporting of potential cases with an increase in actual cases.

It is certainly important to monitor your dog for any signs of distress, heart-related or otherwise, but I urge you to not jump to a conclusion that what you are feeding is causing any issues you’re experiencing with your pet.  It’s worth considering and discussing of course, but it is heart-breaking to see caring, diligent dog owners who have been doing what they think is best for their pets, suddenly feel like they have in fact been causing health problems.

My advice, as it has always been, is to feed as varied a diet as possible.  Change up the proteins, carbohydrates and fat sources.  Feed a brand of food that has a history of open communication, rigorous product testing and healthy results and keep your dog active and happy.  Just like in our own lives, if we have a varied diet, stay active, and minimize chemical contact, the odds are in our favour to live happy and healthy lives.