Deadly dog heart disease linked to grain-free dog food

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AUSTIN (KXAN) – The FDA announced this week 16 dog food brands are linked to canine dilated cardiomyopathy, or DCM, a genetic disease that enlarges hearts. Austin veterinary cardiologist Dr. Katie Meier has seen more dogs develop the disease lately. “I’ve been a cardiologist for over 16 years and I’ve never seen a chihuahua with dilated cardiomyopathy until this year and it was eating one of the foods”

DCM is a genetic disease, typically found in Dobermans, great Danes, and Irish Wolf Hounds. “It thins the muscle and it makes a weak heart muscle so the heart can’t pump blood appropriately.” Dr. Meier said.

In 2017, veterinary cardiologists began noticing dilated cardiomyopathy in atypical dog breeds, such as chihuahuas and golden retrievers. Vets found that a couple food brands were the common factor. That’s when the FDA got involved.

16 dog food brands have been identified by the FDA such as Acana, Zignautre, and Taste of the Wild.

All the dog food brands have been labeled grain free, which experts believe is a possible link to DCM.

Some of these dog foods also contain exotic proteins that may play a role such as fish, venison or even kangaroo, all things dogs don’t usually eat.

“The dogs that I’m suspicious of their diet, their ventricles are sometimes 2 or 3 centimeters larger than what the cutoff is for diagnosing cardiomyopathy” Dr. Meier said

The FDA has linked more than 500 cases of DCM to the dog food but hasn’t yet determined why the food might be causing the disease. Dr Meier says if your dog is currently eating one of the foods, don’t panic, instead talk to your vet about slowly transitioning your dog to a diet that includes normal grains and proteins such as chicken and beef.

Some of the signs of dilated cardiomyopathy include heart murmurs, abnormal heart rates, weakness and exercise intolerance, and heavy breathing when they haven’t been exerting themselves.

The good news is it can be treated with medication. Dogs can become more functional, but likely won’t fully recover.

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