Choosing what to feed your pet can be a very hard decision. Did you know that Americans spend over $30 billion each year on their pet’s food? There are many different companies and varieties of diets to choose from as well. Many pet food companies are experts in marketing and advertising and are quick to promote trending diets even if they are not the best choice of food for your pet. This may be the case for grain-free or BEG (boutique, exotic, grain-free) diets made for dogs.

Why Should There Be A Concern About Grain-Free Diets?

Through the past few years, veterinary cardiologists have noticed an uptick in the number of dogs who had dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a heart condition that decreases the heart’s ability to pump blood. Certain dog breeds are more at risk of developing DCM, but the vets were diagnosing this condition in breeds that did not have any known genetic predisposition, so the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) launched an investigation into the matter.

The FDA found DCM in 515 dogs from January 1, 2014, to April 30, 2019. When they looked at what these dogs were eating, they found that 90 percent were on a grain-free diet, and 93 percent were on diets that included peas and/or lentils. These foods were then tested for minerals, metals and amino acids, and there were no abnormalities found.

Now, these findings do not prove that there is a relationship between developing DCM and eating grain-free diets; however, there are many reports of dogs with DCM who had an improvement in their condition when they were taken off of a BEG diet and put on a special amino acid supplementation of Taurine. However, we still do not know why this happens, but it appears that DCM is more likely to occur in dogs that are only eating BEG diets.

If your dog is on a BEG diet, they should be closely watched for any signs of heart disease by your vet or veterinary cardiologist. If your dog has an allergy to certain foods, there are alternatives to grain-free diets and exotic ingredients with no known health risks.

When you decide on the best diet for your pet, the best advice is to ask your veterinarian. Vets have ample training in animal nutrition while they go through school and through the educational conferences that they attend throughout their careers. They are the best suited to give you advice on the proper diets than any pet store employee. However, you should note that there have been no reported cases of dogs developing nutritionally mediated DCM while eating foods that meet the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) guidelines. This can be a great place to start your research on the best diet for your pet.