Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) and the FDA Report

Yesterday, the FDA did a "data dump" on the news of the reported cases of DCM.  First, let me explain about DCM or dilated cardiomyopathy. This disease is when there is a lack of taurine in the body. Taurine supports the health of the heart and fat digestion. The disorder weakens the heart muscle, which leads to a decreased ability of the heart to pump. If left untreated, it can result in cardiac failure. Dogs typically produce taurine themselves, and most do not have a dietary requirement for taurine. Cats, on the other hand, do require taurine supplementation. Genetically predisposed breeds include, the American Cocker Spaniel, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Saint Bernard, Newfoundland and English Setter. The  exact cause is unknown, however, for some reason the body is not either absorbing the taurine, or has a higher requirement for it. Studies suggest the larger the breed and slower metabolism to synthesize the taurine could be the issue. Newfoundlands have a significantly lower rate of taurine synthesis than say a Beagle.

The FDA report is based on 560 dogs over a 4 year period, who were reported with symptoms of DCM. As all cases are relevant, there were approximately 119 cases that were fatal. The majority of these dogs (95) were Golden Retrievers. Put into perspective, the United States has 77 million dogs. The list of foods presented to the public was representative of the foods given these dogs. The study suggest there are multiple factors and cannot lead to a conclusion right now. The foods are Acana, Zignature, Orijen, Taste of the WIld, Natural Balance, Fromm, 4Health, Merrick, California Natural,Nature's Variety, Nutrisource, Nutro and Rachael Ray Nutrish. Nature's Domain, Earthborn Holistic, and Blue Buffalo. Of the manufacturers we work with, we have seen blood and plasma results proving the uptake of taurine in the dogs' bodies. 's Additionally, some manufacturer's are including additional taurine in their foods. So, back to genetic and a combination of dietary problems. There currently, is no clear evidence that a particular dog food type, brand, or even ingredient is solely responsible for taurine-deficiency DCM in dogs.

The nature of the study suggests that grain-free foods with legumes, peas, lentils and potatoes are risk factors, and are likely  to blame for the reported cases of DCM.   However, an initial report on DCM was done back in 2001 with data collected from 1997-2001. This my friends, is long before grain-free diets were available. We don't know what is causing the recent compilation of DCM cases.

Best thing to do, know your dog and genetic diseases it may be prone to. Know your foods, and question the manufacturers if you have questions. Work with knowledgeable folks about foods. Feed high quality, animal-source proteins. Your food should not be plant-source proteins, as its primary protein source and should not have a high level of fiber. This can create the poor digestion of the taurine and the dog will be unable to have the best reabsorption of taurine. Do you need a change or not? Make sure you know the dietary risk factors.

Dietary risk factors:

  • Low protein diet (limited taurine)
  • Heat-damaged or poor quality protein sources
  • High dietary fiber (ie. rice bran, beet pulp, cellulose)
  • Lamb and rice diets (speculated)
  • Plant-based protein sources (peas, lentils, legumes-speculated)

Possible Risk Factors:

  • Breeds
  • Large breed dogs
  • Dogs with a slower matabolism
  • Diet-factors that reduce taurine production (see dietary)
  • Factors that increase taurine
  • Factors that reduce bile acid reabsorption

If you are concerned about your dog, visit your Veterinarian and have his plasma levels checked for taurine deficiency. If you have questions about any foods that we carry we will be happen to assist you. The manufacturer's we work with have presented us with papers on their foods. The foods we carry have the best manufacturing practices along with high-quality protein sources.

 Signs of DCM include, decreased energy, cough, difficulty breathing and episodes of collapse.

**sources include www.thesciencedog.com/2018