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USA Today: Your dog may be at risk for developing heart disease based on their food, FDA says

A new report from the FDA says that your dogs’ diet could be a factor in whether they develop heart disease. It matters for humans, so it makes sense that it matters for animals, too.

The FDA is continuing to investigate a possible connection between certain diets and cases of dilated cardiomyopathy, known as DCM or canine heart disease, which can result in congestive heart failure.

The agency first announced the investigation in July 2018, and recently named 16 pet food brands most frequently identified in 524 reported cases, which included 515 dogs and nine cats. Steven M. Solomon, director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, said in a statement:

“We know it can be devastating to suddenly learn that your previously healthy pet has a potentially life-threatening disease like DCM. That’s why the FDA is committed to continuing our collaborative scientific investigation into the possible link between DCM and certain pet foods.”1

The report said five cats and 119 dogs died from the disease. It also says large and giant breed dogs are most typically affected, with cases being most prevalent in golden retrievers, mixed breeds and Labrador retrievers. However, there have been cases of smaller breeds, too, suggesting there is not a genetic connection.

Cats are more likely to develop hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which also is heart disease, the report notes. The report went on to say:

In most of the cases, the dogs ate dry food formulations. The investigation also looked into the ingredients or characteristics of the dogs’ diets. More than 90% of diets were “grain-free” and 93% had peas and/or lentils.

“Most dogs in the U.S. have been eating pet food without apparently developing DCM,” the FDA report states, adding the American Veterinary Medical Association estimates there are 77 million dogs in the country. “It’s not known how commonly dogs develop DCM, but the increase in reports to FDA signal a potential increase in cases of DCM in dogs not genetically predisposed.”

“However, the FDA is first and foremost a public health agency, and takes seriously its responsibility to protect human and animal health,” the agency said in the statement. “In the case of DCM, the agency has an obligation to be transparent with the pet-owning public regarding the frequency with which certain brands have been reported.”1

Here are the 16 brands identified in the report for having the most cases and how many heart disease cases they had that were reported to the FDA:

  • Acana: 67
  • Zignature: 64
  • Taste of the Wild: 53
  • 4Health: 32
  • Earthborn Holistic: 32
  • Blue Buffalo: 31
  • Nature’s Domain: 29
  • Fromm: 24
  • Merrick: 16
  • California Natural: 15
  • Natural Balance: 15
  • Orijen: 12
  • Nature’s Variety: 11
  • NutriSource: 10
  • Nutro: 10
  • Rachael Ray Nutrish: 10

Other brands of pet foods were identified in the 78-page FDA document, which also notes details of each case with the animal’s breed, age and weight along with a description of the reported illness.

Champion Petfoods, which owns Acana and Orijen, said in a statement to USA TODAY Friday that “our hearts go out to every pet and pet lover who have been impacted by DCM, adding:

“We take this very seriously and will continue to work internally and with other industry leaders on research into the cause of DCM in order to help pet lovers understand the facts. Our own research, and the millions of pets who have thrived by eating our food over 25 years, have shown that Champion pet foods are safe.”1

The FDA is encouraging veterinarians to report cases by using its electronic Safety Reporting Portal or by calling state FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinators.

Pet owners are advised to contact their veterinarian as soon as possible if “a dog is showing possible signs of DCM or other heart conditions, including decreased energy, cough, difficulty breathing and episodes of collapse,” the report said.1

The FDA also said it in the report that it looks to industry organizations and pet food manufacturers to contribute to the investigation “while continuing their own investigations to help shed light on potential issues with formulas or ingredients.”