FDA investigating potential connection between Boutique grain-free diets and heart disease. 

Veterinary cardiologists and the FDA are warning pet owners about a possible link between grain-free boutique dog food brands and an increased risk of canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM), a serious heart disease that can lead to congestive heart failure. Young dogs that started eating a grain-free boutique diet as a puppy seem to be at greatest risk.

The Food and Drug Administration issued an alert in July 2018, notifying pet owners and veterinarians of the reports. According to the alert, DCM was being diagnosed in dogs with grain-free diets “containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes as main ingredients.”

“High levels of legumes or potatoes appear to be more common in diets labeled as ‘grain-free,’ but it is not yet known how these ingredients are linked to cases of DCM,” wrote the FDA.

The FDA is still investigating the link at this time. More than 250 cases of DCM with a potential link to diet have been recorded, with increasing frequency, and at least 24 dogs have died from the condition. Despite these numbers, no dog foods have been recalled.

With DCM, the dog’s heart becomes weak, unable to properly pump blood. The heart enlarges to compensate, but as the heart’s ability to pump deteriorates, fluid can build up in the lungs, causing coughing or shortness of breath.


At this time, the doctors at Hilton Animal Hospital recommend that all our dog owners reevaluate the food that they are feeding. Our recommendation is that dogs should eat a diet that was formulated by a certified animal nutritionist (DVM-DACVN or PHD in Animal Nutrition). We urge caution when feeding a grain-free or boutique diet made with exotic protein sources and rich in legumes (chickpeas, peas or lentils); unless it is an approved prescription diet. Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns.


We strongly caution against feeding boutique diets that have not been formulated by qualified animal nutritionists.


Resources and References

For more information please utilize to links and documents below

From the Washington Post : August 2018


“Across the country at the University of California at Davis, Joshua Stern, another veterinary cardiologist, started to see surprising signs of heart disease in his golden retriever patients. Multiple veterinary groups, working independently at first, started to notice this disturbing trend. The world of veterinary cardiology is small, with about 200 specialists in the United States, Stern said. They alerted the FDA. Together, they began compiling cases and investigating environmental conditions that might affect unrelated dogs within one household. The vets started to find that many of the sick dogs had been on grain-free diets, high in legumes, leading up to their illnesses.

The FDA report from July 12 stated that canine DCM was typically caused by a genetic predisposition in large breed dogs such as Great Danes and Newfoundlands. The recent cases included “Golden and Labrador retrievers, a Whippet, a Shih Tzu, a Bulldog and Miniature Schnauzers, as well as mixed breeds. Early reports … indicate that the impacted dogs consistently ate foods containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds or potatoes as main ingredients,” said the report. The length of exposure to the diet ranged from months to years. Before releasing the cautionary statement, the FDA had received 30 reports of dogs affected with DCM and linked to a grain-free diet, said Martine Hartogensis, the deputy director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, and the veterinary cardiologists had collected about 150 cases. Since then, the FDA has received reports of an additional 120 dogs sickened with DCM, most involving a grain-free diet. At least 24 dogs have died of the condition.

The FDA is still investigating the link with grain-free pet food. An FDA press officer stated in an email that it “has not determined that the pet food is causally associated with these pet illnesses and deaths.” No dog food has been recalled.”


Read More:  Article from the New York Times 2018 [PDF]