What is DCM, and Should I be Worried?
In the recent weeks, I have had probably at least 50 different customers come into the store and ask me about the newest FDA study about the possible connection between what you feed your dog and DCM - Dilated Cardiomyopathy, which is when a dog's heart chamber becomes enlarged, resulting in weaker blood flow, lower energy, and in some extreme cases, death. Obviously, this is a serious health condition, so customers are right to ask about the study, since no one wants their pet to have to deal with that. I have had plenty of customers stop feeding their pets foods from brands which are listed in the study, and even some who have decided to start cooking their own food for their pets. However, before pulling the trigger on a new food or swearing off dog food companies altogether, it is important to have all of the information. The FDA at this point has only cited a "possible association between diet and DCM in dogs (which) is a complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors.” (Whole Dog Journal). Correlation does not mean there is causation. There are many other factors that contribute to DCM - Genetics, infections, gender (male dogs are more affected than females) and nutritional deficiencies can also play a role.
The biggest known contributor to DCM as far as dietary factors go is taurine and carnitine deficiencies. Taurine is an essential amino acid, which is found in high concentrations in the heart and eyes of canines. Carnitine is a nutrient that helps transport fatty acids, which are important for energy production in canines. So, when thinking about switching to a new food, do not go by the brand, or by the grain free label, flip the bag over and read the ingredient list. Taurine can be naturally found in chicken, pork, beef, eggs, yeast, green beans, or any other sort of bean. When analyzing the ingredient list, make sure you use a food that uses real meat products instead of something like chicken meal or byproducts, because it will have more taurine in it. Carnitine can be naturally found in red meats especially, as well as fish, beans, and dairy products. (Pet MD). Your best bet to finding a food that will have a decent level of both of these will be a dog food that uses real chicken, and includes some kind of bean as one of the primary ingredients. After looking at the foods we carry in our store, I found 5 that would be great choices: Tikidog's Chicken Luau, Fromm's Chicken Frommage (grain free) OR Chicken A La Veg (with grains), Nutrisource's Chicken & Peas, or Nutrisca's Chicken and Chickpea. If you are not already feeding your dog any of these flavors, and you would like to make a transition, we have a 100% satisfaction guaranteed policy on all of our dry dog (or cat) food, so if for any reason whatsoever it does not work out for you, you can bring us back the open bag of food and get a full refund.
Of course, we also carry frozen and freeze dried raw diets, from brands like Primal, Stella & Chewy's, My Perfect Pet, and Smallbatch. These are more expensive foods, but they are made with 85% or more real meat, organs, and bones, and will have even higher values of taurine and carnitine than any dry kibble will. Raw diets are highly recommended by many local vets, and are also 100% guaranteed at Pawsarotti's. You can use raw foods as your dogs primary food, of you can use it as supplemental feeding with dry kibble as well! We also have wet canned food that you can use to supplement the dry food diets, as well as meal toppers that come in a pouch that will not only add nutritional value, but will be a tasty treat too!
The DCM study sounds scary, but it has been blown up to be way more than it actually is. The FDA only cited a possible association between diet and DCM, and they haven't said anything about there even being a concrete association. The study found that 500 dogs in The United States were affected by DCM that were eating the 16 brands that they listed. There are over 90 million dogs in America, and out of the 16 brands listed, there are many big brand names, so it is safe to assume that there are easily millions of dogs eating the brands the FDA named in its study. For simplicities sake, lets say there are 5 million dogs who eat the brands listed (the real number is realistically probably much higher). Using these numbers, the amount of dogs who eat the food listed in the study that were affected by DCM is 0.0001%. Even if my numbers are too high, and even only 1 million dogs are eating the food listed, that is still just 0.0005%. The FDA has also said that at this time, they do not currently recommend people to switch the brand of food that they are feeding unless you see symptoms of DCM, which include lethargy, weakness, weight loss, collapse,coughing, or increased respiratory rate and/or effort. If you see these symptoms, you should contact a veterinarian immediately, before considering a change in diet. It is ALWAYS a smart idea to check with a vet before making any decisions like that, and if you see any DCM symptoms you should get your pup checked out anyways. While you are there, have them run tests to check for taurine deficiencies. Chances are, if you have not seen any symptoms of DCM, and your dog has been eating the same food for a while with no problems, they will be totally fine sticking with what is working. The brands did not recently change how they make their food or what goes in it: the food your dog has been eating will be the same thing you will find at the store, and if your dog has not exhibited symptoms of DCM it is unlikely that they will develop it overnight, at least not because of their diet. Generally I would suggest to not fix something if it is not broken. If the food your pet has been eating is working for you, and they seem healthy and happy with it, I would suggest not to switch foods. I hope this was a helpful post, and if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to shoot me an email at Pawsarottis@yahoo.com!