Once again, the internet is abuzz following the release of more information from the FDA and the Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network (Vet-LIRN) regarding Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) and the potential for it being connected to grain-free diets. And the national media has also jumped into the fray, only adding to the hysteria among pet owners.
Between January 1, 2014 and April 30, 2019, the FDA received 524 reports of DCM (515 canine, 9 feline). As part of its most recent announcement, the FDA has identified 16 brands of dog food that it claims has had the most frequent reported cases of DCM. But the report generates more questions than it provides answers.
Among my many questions about this investigation is this: Was there any scientific basis for the naming of these specific brands or was it simply based on frequency of the brand name being provided to the FDA? One description from a consumer clearly states “I am not able to submit this report unless I name a specific brand, so I am naming the brand of food they both ate last before I became aware of the potential dangers of lentils.”
And a few prominent veterinarians are using this situation to continue their attack on what they call “BEG” diets—boutique companies, exotic ingredients or grain-free diets. This includes the Tufts University Veterinary School, which has recently been highly critical of “unconventional diets, such as unbalanced home-prepared diets, raw diets, vegetarian diets and boutique commercial pet foods” on its website and has even gone so far as to tell consumers to “stop reading the ingredient list.”
The FDA urges pet owners to work with their veterinarians, who might consult a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, to obtain the most appropriate dietary advice for their pet’s specific needs. Unfortunately, an abundance of veterinarians appear to be showing great bias in the brands they are recommending to pet owners and who are reportedly telling pet owners to not take any advice from independent retailers.
However, one highly respected expert in veterinary nutrition, Dr. Justin Shmalberg, specifically states that there’s no proven association between any specific diet and DCM. He writes: “Taurine levels were only available for 64 percent of dogs with confirmed DCM, and less than half of those had low taurine (42 percent). Generally speaking, it would be safe to say that low taurine was less common than a normal or high taurine across the dogs reported.”
More studies on DCM need to be conducted, especially taking into account how it is more prevalent in certain breeds such as golden and labrador retrievers. For now, one has to wonder if this current DCM investigation is being conducted for the well-being of pets or if it is a well-planned ploy to attack independent retailers and small pet food manufacturers.
Glenn A. Polyn