Grain Free Diets and Heart Disease

Dog Food Advisor Forums Diet and Health Grain Free Diets and Heart Disease

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  • #116486 Report Abuse

    I came across this article this am and though it was worth a share. It explores the recently recognized connection between small boutiques grain free diets and cardiomyopathy.

    A Broken Heart: Risk of Heart Disease in Boutique or Grain Free diets or Exotic Ingredients

    #116487 Report Abuse

    Tufts is wonderful, they do a lot of good, especially for wildlife.

    However, from a consumer’s perspective, their services are very expensive. They do have 24/7 emergency clinics, so in a dire emergency they are much appreciated.

    I prefer Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston. They have some excellent articles available on their site.

    #116489 Report Abuse

    Thanks, Aimee, I received that article too. I hope the word gets out. Especially, if there truly is a connection. It is very concerning due to the popularity of these types of diets!

    #116490 Report Abuse

    I understand the exotic meats being a problem, but why would something like a grain free poultry cause an issue? Poultry is very high in taurine. I’d think something like a lamb and oatmeal would have a lower content than a grain free chicken diet.

    #116491 Report Abuse

    I read it is something to due with the fiber from the peas and/or lentils possibly binding to the taurine making it unavailable to be absored. Or something like that! 🙂 I’m not very sciency!

    #116494 Report Abuse
    Bobby dog

    Definitely worth sharing!!

    Love their newsletters & site; I get their cat newsletter too.

    #116538 Report Abuse

    Good article Aimee,
    this is why I always tell people to “Rotate” their dog foods, don’t just feed the same dog food 24/7, month after month…When you’re “Rotating” a dogs food, if you’re feeding a dry/wet food that isn’t balanced properly then your dog or cat isnt eating the un-balanced food long enough to cause any health problems cause you’re rotating their foods regularly…..
    I knew these new dog & cat foods that have Chickpeas & Lentils will lead to serious health problems….

    #116552 Report Abuse

    Hi Susan,
    Rotation may or may not help depending on how it is done. If the person is stuck in a grain free anti large company mindset they may simply rotate from one small boutique grain free brand to another or change varieties within a brand and still have the same deficiency.

    When rotating I think it is best done between types and companies to get the best benefit

    Personally I don’t rotate foods anymore. I used to but found that her coat and skin suffered so her base diet stays the same to which I add a variety of fresh foods and canned.

    #116554 Report Abuse

    Chickpeas & Lentils are good! They are legumes, not exotic ingredients 🙂

    I, as well as other pet owners I know, have had excellent results with Zignature kibble (as a base) Toppers are stuff like boiled chicken meat or scrambled egg. Always a splash of water or plain chicken broth.
    They have several different proteins, I stay with the fish ones, whitefish, catfish, salmon and trout. We try different ones, depending on what is on sale, whitefish is our current favorite.
    PS: We avoid potatoes, all types. We consider it to be a cheap starchy filler.
    A little potato is okay (imo) however a lot of kibbles are loaded with it.

    #116556 Report Abuse

    Hi Aimee-
    Most of the articles that I have read regarding this new discovery possibly linked to grain free diets always mention foods that use legumes as their binder or exotic proteins. I do feed a few grain free foods, but they mostly use sweet or white potatoes as their carb.

    Do you think potatoes could cause the same type of issue?

    #116625 Report Abuse

    Hi Anon,

    The author defined her use of the terms “exotic” ingredient within the article “exotic ingredients – kangaroo, lentils, duck, pea, fava bean, buffalo, tapioca, salmon, lamb, barley, bison, venison, and chickpeas.”

    Also note that the case reported was eating a kangaoo and chickpea food which sounds like it could have been Zignature.

    Crazy4cats. Like you I have seen this reported associated with legumes. Jack has been on venison and potato for years without issue and gets a cardiac ultrasound every few years d/t his congenital malformation. No problems noted other then those with which he was born.

    Personally I’d be more suspect of legume sources but it really is to early to know and likely complicated.

    #116632 Report Abuse

    Well, I take what Tufts says with a grain of salt.
    Frankly I am tired of getting e-mails from them all the time asking for donations.
    I paid them ridiculous amounts of money when I have used their services. I have told them “I am broke!” Please leave me alone……

    None of those mentioned look like exotic ingredients to me.

    Believe what you want.

    #116634 Report Abuse


    Thank you for your response. Glad to hear Jack is doing well. I have also seen Acana mentioned in a few of the articles I’ve read. I think their duck and pear and the lamb and apple recipes have been noted. They also use a lot of legumes as their carb.

    Hopefully, they’ll get the source of the problem figured out!

    #116635 Report Abuse

    It’s not just Tufts that are investigating this issue. UC Davis Vet School along with several others are also involved with this investigation. There are many articles on the internet about it. I believe it is something to take very seriously.

    Check this one out:

    #116636 Report Abuse

    I’d go nuts if I read that stuff all day long.

    I’ll trust my veterinarian to keep me informed, I have learned over the years that is what works best. Find a vet that you trust and bring your pets in at least once a year.

    They will advise you of what’s best for your pet 🙂


    #116650 Report Abuse
    a c

    This may be a little off the subject. Do I need to be concerned about BPA in the dog can food? I know BPA still exist in human can goods. I am sure the regulation on dog can food is probably less restrict than the human can food.

    #116654 Report Abuse

    In science one makes reasonable conclusions based on available data and has to be open to new information which may challenge previously made conclusions and lead to a new conclusion being made.

    If as a scientist information that counters your current conclusion is cast aside forward progress will not be made.

    In this situation it is early in the investigation. What has been found is a correlation between eating foods high in legumes and cardiomyopathy with improvement when the diet is changed. Correlation doesn’t mean causation but it warrants further investigation.

    Thank goodness there are veterinarians who acting as good scientists are open to this new information vs casting it aside.

    #117617 Report Abuse
    Drew M

    Thanks Aimee for your reasonable opinions here!

    After reading the article from Tufts, I don’t necessarily see that they are asserting that any particular ingredient caused the problem. From their use of the term “boutique” as well as mentioning home-prepared diets, it seems to me they’re more concerned about the general ability of many of these companies to ensure the right balance of nutrients is maintained in the food throughout processing.

    Remember that when we were seeing taurine deficiency, it wasn’t about diets being too low in meat. The taurine was lost during processing; it didn’t stand up well to heat or storage. Many companies now add taurine in towards the end of processing to prevent this issue.

    While there may be an issue with the ingredients themselves, I think it has more to do with the explosion of new pet food companies that people trust due to marketing claims, packaging, and the errant belief that you can assess the quality of a food from looking at the ingredient label. These companies may not have done enough research, hired the appropriate experts, or invested enough money into testing and quality control to ensure that the healthy-sounding ingredients they put in result in a nutritious diet in the bag.

    #117618 Report Abuse
    Drew M

    In response to anon101’s thoughts:

    First, keep in mind that veterinary research is generally underfunded. We don’t have nice big studies. One of the major flaws often leveled at veterinary nutrition departments is that they get a lot of funding from pet food companies. Why do you think they’re trying to get donations to fund their pet food research? It’s so they can maintain independence and do research that is not at risk of bias, or the perception of bias. We all hate being asked for money, but also keep in mind that the people asking you for money probably don’t even use the same break room or work in the same building as the people researching pet food or diagnosing your pet.

    As far as trusting your veterinarian to keep you informed: trust isn’t really correlated to accuracy, unfortunately. Many people “lose trust” in a veterinarian who doesn’t confirm what the client wants to believe, for example. Who we trust is based on very emotional, gut-level thinking.

    Veterinarians are a much better source of information than, say, a website written or maintained by a non-veterinarian, and in general I think it’s great that you trust your veterinarian. But we are susceptible to marketing too. If your veterinarian and a veterinary specialist disagree on a topic that the specialists have devoted their lives to studying, it’s probably a good idea to take the specialist’s advice.

    With all of that said, the article from Tufts is a very preliminary discussion. It’s too soon to start speculating, changing diets, rotating diets, or anything else; if you’re worried, probably the only change that makes sense is to switch to a mainstream, high-quality commercial diet.

    #117734 Report Abuse

    Hi Drew,

    I agree it is early in this investigation. For what it is worth some cardiologists are concerned legumes are playing a large role in this situation and are recommending switching off of them.

    In regards to taurine my understanding is that heat processing doesn’t destroy taurine per say. The problem with heat processing is related to the other ingredients that made up the food. From NRC 2006 taurine needs are relative to protein and fiber content and digestibility. High heat processing can decrease protein digestibility and can lead to an altered microbe population in the gut which then may metabolize taurine or create peptides which bind taurine and then it is lost in feces. Taurine can also be lost in feces through binding with fiber.

    The protein and fiber in legumes may be playing a roll here which is why they are being closely evaluated.

    #117785 Report Abuse

    Thank you, Drew and Aimee for your educated opinions and information on this subject. The more I learn about dog food and nutrition, the more I realize I don’t know!

    This subject is very interesting to me as I have two large lab/retriever mix dogs. I am trying to avoid legume heavy kibble now.

    #117843 Report Abuse

    Great conversation guys!

    Drew, you really nailed it with your post to Anon. I could not agree more. I work as a vet tech currently and we have many clients that have been seeing the various vets I work with for years and then go and read something on the internet that states the opposite of what the vet says, and decide they no longer want to see that vet. Its all very emotion based.

    #118938 Report Abuse
    Katie K

    I’ve heard about this twice within the past week and tried researching it. It sounds like the majority of people in this thread read the same article that I did. To me, it was very unclear. What makes them Think certain foods are causing this? Is it simply because the number of dogs with heart problems have gone up and more and more people are feeding their dogs grain-free? I would think that they would want something more conclusive before spreading this belief. What if a new vaccine is causing it? Or something environmental? Or it could be genetic, with the amounts of dogs in puppy mills. And the way it talks about taurine… A lot of dogs with a heart disease are deficient in taurine. But then again, a lot of them aren’t…?
    My dog does have sensitive skin. He has allergies to some things. I feed him grain-free. He does great with the food I have him on. Is he allergic to grain? I don’t know. I do know that when his skin is irritated, he chews. When he chews, moisture gets into his skin and yeast starts to build up. Grain feeds the yeast and causes it to spread. A grain-free food won’t worsen the problem. If you feed a grain-free food with the right balance/amounts of probiotics, it actually fights the yeast. If, for some reason, his food were to cause a taurine deficiency, I would rather give him a supplement than switch him to a food that causes him to be itchy all the time.
    This article isn’t just recommending to stay away from grain-free foods. It also says that “boutique” foods can cause heart problems. That term, “boutique foods” is kind of vague, no? So grain-free foods, “boutique” foods, and a raw diet.. According to this article, they’re all no good. Well, what does that leave us with? Hills Science Diet? This article talks about a vet who is researching this whole grain-free causing heart problems. Morris Animal Foundation is funding his research. Who started this foundation? The same person who started Hills Science Diet. What kind of food are vets recommending we switch our dogs to? Hills Science Diet.
    Vets have been recommending and selling this food for decades. The more they sell, the more perks they get from the company. This food is so unhealthy but was very popular for a very long time because people trusted their vets. Now that we have the internet, more and more pet owners are educating themselves and making informed decisions on what to give their dog. I am sure Hill’s sales have dropped dramatically. It sounds to me that they are desperate to get back on top.
    In my opinion, if your dog is doing well with the food s/he is eating, don’t change their diet. ESPECIALLY to Hill’s Science Diet. If they ever have proof to back this theory, of course I will take it seriously. But for now, it seems to me that they’re trying to take advantage of our love for our dogs to line their pockets.

    #118940 Report Abuse
    Patricia A

    Just like to share this. By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

    Thirty years ago, researchers at the School of Veterinary Medicine at University of California, Davis discovered the link between taurine deficiency and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a heart muscle disease in cats.1 According to Morris Animal Foundation, “The veterinary community was stunned” by this news, in part because the UC-Davis researchers were able to prove that DCM was reversible when cats received the amount of taurine they needed in their diet.2

    Of course, most holistic veterinarians and others knowledgeable about veterinary nutrition and who understand the link between diet and disease weren’t surprised. Taurine, which is an amino acid, is found in meat, and cats, as meat-eating obligate carnivores, haven’t developed the ability to make their own taurine.

    This means it’s an essential amino acid for cats — they must get it from their diet, and 30 years ago when UC-Davis veterinarians made their discovery, we were well into the age of processed pet food, having made cats (and dogs) almost entirely dependent on humans for their nutrition.

    Pet food formulators often guessed at the effects of extensive processing on nutrients. This is especially true for pet food (feed) that blends leftover pieces and parts from the human meat processing industry with other sources of questionable nutrients before they are rendered and cooked at high temperatures, depleting the nutrients that existed before processing, as well as altering the chemical composition of ingredients (and often creating toxic byproducts along the way).

    Are Dogs With DCM Taurine-Deficient?
    As soon as the UC-Davis researchers published their findings in cats back in the late 1980s, veterinary cardiologists began looking for taurine and other nutrient deficiencies in their canine patients with DCM.

    No direct cause-and-effect relationship could be established, since the vast majority of dogs with DCM weren’t taurine-deficient. Taurine is not considered an essential amino acid for dogs because like many other species, their bodies have the metabolic capacity to manufacture taurine from the dietary amino acids cysteine and methionine.

    To further confuse the issue, while the disease is inherited in certain breeds, for example, the Doberman Pinscher, in other breeds it is indeed linked to taurine deficiency. In the mid-1990s, UC-Davis conducted a study of American Cocker Spaniels with DCM and found low taurine levels in many of the dogs. The study authors wrote in their abstract:

    “We conclude that ACS [American Cocker Spaniels] with DCM are taurine-deficient and are responsive to taurine and carnitine supplementation. Whereas myocardial function did not return to normal in most dogs, it did improve enough to allow discontinuation of cardiovascular drug therapy and to maintain a normal quality of life for months to years.”3

    A 2003 study showed that some Newfoundlands had taurine deficiency-related DCM,4 and two years later, another study was published about a family of Golden Retrievers with taurine deficiency and reversible DCM.5 As veterinary cardiologists continued to encounter cases of taurine deficiency-related DCM in dogs, and continued to search for a common link, diet was thought to play a major role in development of the disease.

    UC-Davis Is Currently Conducting Research on Taurine Deficiency-Related DCM in Golden Retrievers
    The dogs receiving the most focus right now due to escalating rates of DCM related to taurine deficiency are Golden Retrievers. Veterinarian and researcher Dr. Joshua Stern, Chair of the Department of (Veterinary) Cardiology at UC-Davis, and owner of a Golden Retriever Lifetime Study participant named Lira, is looking into the situation.

    He’s collecting blood samples and cardiac ultrasound results from Goldens both with DCM and without the disease. Stern agrees diet plays a role, but he also suspects there are genes at work that increase the risk of the condition in the breed.

    “I suspect that Golden Retrievers might have something in their genetic make-up that makes them less efficient at making taurine,” Stern told the Morris Animal Foundation. “Couple that with certain diets, and you’ve given them a double hit. If you feed them a diet that has fewer building blocks for taurine or a food component that inhibits this synthesis, they pop up with DCM.”6

    Dr. Stern has written an open letter to veterinarians and owners of Goldens that you can read here. In it, he briefly explains his research and recommends a four-step process dog parents can undertake if they believe their pet is at risk for, or is showing signs of DCM:

    1. If you believe your dog is at risk for taurine-deficient Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) and wish to have taurine levels tested, please request a whole blood taurine level be submitted (lithium heparin tube) for analysis. The laboratory I recommend can be found here.

    2. If you believe your dog is showing signs of DCM already, please seek an appointment with a board-certified cardiologist to have an echocardiogram and taurine testing obtained simultaneously — do not change foods, do not supplement prior to the appointment.

    3. If you receive taurine test results that come back as low, please seek an appointment with a board certified cardiologist to have an echocardiogram performed to determine if your pet needs cardiac medications and the appropriate supplements to be used (DO NOT SUPPLEMENT OR CHANGE FOODS UNTIL YOU HAVE THE CARDIOLOGY EVALUATION COMPLETED).

    If you live in close to UC Davis, we can arrange research-funded cardiology evaluations for your dog if you contact at this email address.

    4. If you receive cardiologist-confirmed DCM results, please take an image of the food bag, ingredient list and lot number. Please also request a copy of the images from the echocardiogram from your cardiologist (ensure that you have full DICOM image copies on a CD). Please download and complete the full diet history form found at this link.

    Please email the image of food bag, a three-generation pedigree, diet history form, copies of the taurine level results and medical record to this email address. A member of our laboratory team will contact you to discuss our thoughts and possibly request additional information, food samples or blood samples for further testing.

    Stern wants to get to the bottom of this issue as fast and as medically appropriately as possible. He hopes to publish his initial findings soon and offer scientifically based guidelines for Golden parents regarding diet and DCM. If you’re interested in published research on taurine deficiency and canine DCM, Stern also created a collection of files you can download at this link.

    A Particular Brand of Grain-Free Kibble Is Implicated in Some Cases of Diet-Related DCM in Goldens
    Although Stern doesn’t discuss specific diets in his letter linked above, according to Dr. Janet Olson of Veterinary Cardiology Specialists:

    ” … [T]he majority of cases [of taurine deficiency-related DCM in Golden Retrievers] they [Stern and his team] are seeing at UC-Davis are from grain free diets that are high in legumes, like ACANA pork and squash [kibble].”7

    Other sources, including a Golden Retriever owner in Mountain View, CA who contacted us, also mention the same food — ACANA Pork and Squash Singles Formula limited ingredient kibble made by Champion Petfoods. According to my Mountain View source, Dr. Stern has been following a group of Goldens with DCM who had been eating the ACANA formula, and a year later, after changes to their diet, taurine supplementation and in some cases, the use of heart medications, all 20+ dogs either fully or significantly recovered.

    Consumers who’ve contacted Champion about the issue receive a response stating that taurine isn’t an essential amino acid for dogs, and ACANA and ORIJEN diets are formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO dog food nutrient profiles for all life stages. (Since taurine isn’t considered an essential amino acid for dogs, AAFCO dog food nutrient profiles establish no minimum requirement for taurine.)

    Champion acknowledges that a taurine deficiency may contribute to the incidence of DCM in genetically susceptible dogs, but states their diets aren’t formulated for dogs with “special needs.”

    Are All the Starchy Ingredients in Grain-Free Kibble to Blame?
    Since grain-free dry dog food is a relatively new concept, it’s quite possible there’s something about the high-starch (carb) content in these diets that depletes taurine levels and/or makes the taurine less bioavailable. The problem might be related to a chemical reaction (called the Maillard reaction) between taurine and a carbohydrate during the extrusion process that depletes the digestible taurine level in the food.

    And while legumes are being singled out as the potential problematic ingredient, grain-free kibble is often higher in both whole carbohydrates and purified starches (e.g., pea starch, potato starch and tapioca starch) than grain-based dry dog food. The higher the starch level in any pet food, the less protein is included.

    In a study published in 1996 on the effect of high heat processing of cat food on taurine availability, the researchers noted, “These results suggest that Maillard reaction products promote an enteric flora that favors degradation of taurine and decreases recycling of taurine by the enterohepatic route.”8

    Said another way: The byproducts of the chemical reaction between amino acids and sugars (carbs) in dry cat food alter the microbiome (gut bacteria), causing degradation of the taurine in the food, reducing its availability to the cat, and also preventing the taurine from being efficiently recycled by the cat’s body.

    An earlier study published in 1990 that looked at taurine levels in a commercial diet that was fed heat-processed to some cats and frozen-preserved to others drew the same conclusion. The researchers stated ” … processing affects the digestive and/or absorptive process in a manner that increases the catabolism of taurine by gastrointestinal microorganisms.”9

    Other Factors That Influence the Taurine Content of Pet Food/Feed
    A 2003 study published in the Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition looked at taurine concentrations in the ingredients often used in both home prepared and commercial pet diets, as well as how cooking influences taurine content.10

    The researchers reported that animal muscle tissue, especially marine animals, contains high levels of taurine, whereas plant-based ingredients contained either low or undetectable amounts. Also, the amount of taurine that remains after cooking is somewhat dependent on the method of food preparation. When an ingredient was cooked in water (e.g., boiling or basting), more taurine was lost unless the water used to cook the food was included with the meal.

    Food preparation that minimized water loss (e.g., baking or frying) retained more of the taurine, however, it’s important to note that heat processing in any form destroys anywhere from 50 to 100 percent of taurine present in raw food. In addition, extended periods of storage of processed pet foods, and freezing, thawing and grinding of raw pet food also depletes taurine content.11

    Another UC-Davis study published in 2016 evaluated the taurine status of large breed dogs fed low-protein diets (lamb and rice formulas), since they are now known to be at increased risk for taurine deficiency-related DCM.12 The researchers specifically looked at the ingredients rice bran and beet pulp used in many of these diets, and determined that while rice bran didn’t seem to be a primary cause of taurine deficiency, beet pulp may be a culprit.

    Both rice bran and beet pulp bind bile acids (bile acids should be recycled, which effectively recycles taurine) in the small intestine, and increase excretion (which is undesirable) because it depletes taurine by interfering with the enterohepatic recycling of taurine-conjugated bile salts and lowers total body taurine levels.

    Grain-free/”low-protein” commercial diets are very high in carbohydrates, which displace amino acids. They also contain anti-nutrients (e.g., saponins, trypsin inhibitors, phytates and lectins) that may interfere with taurine absorption. When you add in the high-heat processing used to manufacture kibble, it’s hardly surprising these diets aren’t an adequate source of taurine for many dogs.

    How You Can Protect Your Dog
    Those of us who are passionate about animal nutrition have been having a painful awakening for some time now about just how nutrient-deficient many dogs and cats are today. The taurine-DCM issue in dogs is yet another example that animals need much higher levels of bioavailable amino acids from a variety of sources than most are consuming.

    Unfortunately, some processed pet food advocates are using the link between grain-free dog foods and DCM to try to push pet parents back in the direction of grain-based diets. Don’t be fooled. The problem with grain-free formulas isn’t the lack of grains! It’s the high level of starchy carbohydrates coupled with the extreme high-heat processing methods used to produce these diets.

    Until we have much more information on the subject, my current recommendation is to supplement all dogs with high-taurine foods, no matter what type of diet they’re eating. An easy way to do this is to simply mix a can of sardines into your pet’s meal once a week. You can also find the taurine content of many other foods on page two of this study and also in this Raw Feeding Community article.

    If you have a breed or breed mix known to be susceptible to DCM (e.g., Golden Retriever, Doberman Pinscher, Cocker Spaniel, Boxer, Great Dane, Scottish Deerhound, Irish Wolfhound, Saint Bernard, Afghan Hound, Dalmatian, Portuguese Water dog, Old English Sheepdog, Newfoundland), especially if you’ve been feeding grain-free kibble, or if for some other reason you’re concerned about your dog’s heart health, I recommend following Dr. Joshua Stern’s four-step process outlined above, starting with a visit to your veterinarian.

    #118942 Report Abuse
    Patricia A

    Dr. Becker wrote …Unfortunately, some processed pet food advocates are using the link between grain-free dog foods and DCM to try to push pet parents back in the direction of grain-based diets. Don’t be fooled. The problem with grain-free formulas isn’t the lack of grains! It’s the high level of starchy carbohydrates coupled with the extreme high-heat processing methods used to produce these diets.
    So would I be safe to assume a commercial raw as I’m feeding is safe? What about low carb kibble? Very confused.

    #118951 Report Abuse

    Karen Becker is a poor choice to quote here. She’s wildly known for promoting myths regarding pet nutrition. One of her most famous ones being that carbs “feed” yeast.

    #118953 Report Abuse

    Also I’d like to point out that according to the article Dr. Mike posted “It’s premature to conclude taurine deficiency has anything (yet) to do with the cause.” Reason being that several patients presented with normal levels of taurine. So the link may not be taurine deficiency at all.

    Also regardless of if it is based on the fact that the food has too little meat or too many legumes, the only foods in question are grain free, so the problem still remains that particular grain free diets are coming up short. No surprise there though.

    #118958 Report Abuse
    Patricia A

    So in further research I found this article that I think makes sense to me. What I took away from it is that it’s both grains AND starches that displace quality protein that intern causes amino acid deficiencies. Please correct me if I’m wrong. Now I’m feeding some kibble with topper of freeze dried raw. But trouble is according to article raw with high fat means they are not getting enough protein from the raw diet. I wish I can find a raw that’s not also high in fat. I am just exhausted from my daily dog food research already and now this new worry about grain free. My take is that when companies got on the band wagon of touting “NO CORN, NO SOY etc” they just replaced it with other cheap fillers and fooled everyone into thinking all grain free recipes are outstanding foods.

    #118961 Report Abuse

    I agree with Pitlove. I had to shake my head when I read Dr. Becker’s article. She sure made a lot of assumptions and conclusions that were not in any of the studies I have read so far. I feel she is using this new possible issue to promote her agenda!

    #118975 Report Abuse
    Patricia A

    Sorry..I forgot to paste the other article I was referring to above with my last post.

    #118976 Report Abuse
    Spy Car

    @Patricia A, the article is misinformed. You want a raw diet with high fat and protein, No carbs. No plant products. 10% edible bone, 10% organs.

    Calories from fat should be in the 50-60% range *remembering fat has 2.25 times the calories per gram than protein (or carbs).

    When you get a dog off carbs they metabolize fat as their primary energy source, and do so with great efficiency. Far metabolism proves steady and almost unlimited energy and improves a dog’s aerobic capacity in a dramatic fashion.

    The fat in a balanced raw diet is necessary and healthful.


    #118977 Report Abuse

    It doesn’t matter how much protein is in the diet or where it comes from if the taurine from it cannot be absorbed due to other ingredients in the food possibly blocking or binding it somehow.

    That is what the study is trying to find out. So far, it looks like dogs fed certain grain free foods for a period of time are showing up with heart issues at a faster rate than normal. It’s not necessarily about how much protein is in the food.

    • This reply was modified 5 years, 4 months ago by crazy4cats.
    #118985 Report Abuse
    Patricia A

    Thank you Bill for the info and reassurance to stick with the raw. I have a base of Stella Chewy’s Kibble but it a VERY small portion of their diet. I rotate with Primal duck, rabbit, turkey Sardine and venison. They only like rehydrated freeze dried. Stella’s I only give the chicken and salmon cod. They also get a little egg in morning. When we have steak or salmon they get lucky and have that as a topper. I have three chihuahuas’. One being 16 who is still very spunky. She took a liking to the Stella’s kibble small breed. I switched from Fromm because I thought it was a better kibble. So it’s great to have all three on the same one.As said it’s only used as less then 1/8 cup . The 16 year old will not eat any of the raw. She lovers a topper of wellness core chicken/broccoli only. I just hate the carrageenan in it but at 16 I’m glad she eats enthusiastically. Trying hard to get my slightly chubby eight year old to lose some weight. She gets a lot of exercise and eliminated the origen treat for her. Cut down on everything but still not losing. Primal shows lower then average carbs as well as Stella’s.. I have yet to find a freeze dried that has NO carbs. Suggestions appreciated.
    Crazy4cats I think your’e right. I’m thinking of all the crappy dog foods sold at supermarkets that have very little meat and this taurine deficiency was not a problem. Hope we find out the link soon. Until then legumes, potatoes, pea protein etc. should be far down the list of ingredients just in case.

    #118986 Report Abuse


    Will they eat actual raw instead of freeze dried raw? You could probably save some money buying cuts of meat at the grocery store. Primal is so expensive and full of random veggies that don’t really make much of a difference for the dog.

    #119012 Report Abuse
    Patricia A

    Pitlove my picky one won’t touch actual raw. I’m shopping and cooking for my elderly parents and I need the convenience of the bags of freeze dried . My 16 year old is hungry earlier. My eight year old will eat all day if I let her and my three year old will only pick if she’s not fed early evening. The younger two are the only ones that gets the freeze dried so it’s affordable for me. These are the ingredients in the Turkey/Primal :Turkey, Turkey Necks, Whole Sardines, Turkey Hearts, Turkey Livers, Organic Collard Greens, Organic Squash, Cranberries, Blueberries, Organic Pumpkin Seeds, Organic Celery, Organic Sunflower Seeds, Montmorillonite Clay, Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, Organic Cilantro, Organic Ginger, Organic Coconut Oil, Organic Quinoa Sprout Powder, Alfalfa,Dried Organic Kelp, Vitamin E Supplement, Mixed Tocopherols (natural preservative).
    Is Stella’s better with the salmon/Cod recipe? Ground salmon with bones, ground cod with bones, cod liver oil, pumpkin seed, organic cranberries, organic spinach, organic broccoli, organic beets, organic carrots, organic squash, organic blueberries, fenugreek seed, potassium chloride, tocopherols (preservative), sodium phosphate, choline chloride, dried Pediococcus acidilactici fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried Bifidobacterium longum fermentation product, dried Bacillus coagulans fermentation product, zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, taurine, calcium carbonate, vitamin E supplement, thiamine mononitrate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, sodium selenite, niacin supplement, d-calcium pantothenate, riboflavin supplement, vitamin A supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin B12 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folic acid.
    Appreciate any feedback in a better raw.

    #119382 Report Abuse
    lynette w

    I would like to know who funded the article. UC Davis has done studies in the past that turned out to be inaccurate (feeding raw) and they frequently have Science Diet, Royal Canin and Purina products in their pictures. It seems like with cat food issues years ago why advise against grainfree and simply add taurine? Makes me wonder if certain companies want to stop the hype of healthy food.

    • This reply was modified 5 years, 4 months ago by lynette w.
    #119546 Report Abuse
    Linda G

    This article from NY times may be of interest
    Popular Grain-Free Dog Foods May Be Linked to Heart Disease
    FDA issued the warning based on observations made by a large veterinary cardiology group in the DC area. Many questions are still unanswered.

    #119550 Report Abuse

    I think it is really sad that so many people think that veterinarians that spend 8 to 9 years in school accumulating thousands and thousands of dollars in debt, are out to make dogs sick. Yet, they believe a charismatic evangelical type veterinarian that makes millions of dollars off of supplements that she sells claiming that our pets simply cannot live without them! She also makes a mint off of selling books and videos. In addition is also constantly putting down her fellow veterinarians that are not “holistic” attempting to make them sound foolish.

    Just my 2 cents.

    #119551 Report Abuse

    Hope this helps
    “Vet: Grain-free dog food study no cause for alarm”
    Friday, July 27, 2018
    Warnings from a federal agency about grain-free dog food should not be a cause for alarm, according to a local veterinarian. (click on link for complete article)
    Also: /dog-food-news/fda-investigating-potential-link-between-diet-and-heart-disease-in-dogs/

    #119553 Report Abuse

    Another good article! I especially like where the author writes: “Grain-free diets also are not hypoallergenic and are truly only medically necessary in a very small number of cases,” she said.

    There are many companies that falsely advertise their grain free recipes as “hypoallergenic”.

    The answer is probably not going to come quick, so I’d rather be safe than sorry!

    #119657 Report Abuse

    “I would like to know who funded the article. UC Davis has done studies in the past that turned out to be inaccurate (feeding raw) and they frequently have Science Diet, Royal Canin and Purina products in their pictures. It seems like with cat food issues years ago why advise against grainfree and simply add taurine? Makes me wonder if certain companies want to stop the hype of healthy food.”

    It’s not inaccurate simply because you don’t believe it. UC Davis found nutritional deficiencies in 200 raw food recipes that were collected from published recipes, and advised owners to consult with a nutritionist before feeding home prepared diets. That’s it. There were actually no inaccuracies in the statement, however, a website called “Truth About Pet Food” claims they overestimated how much of certain nutrients a dog required; ergo, in their version of logic, UC Davis made an error. If you believe UC Davis’ advice to seek out a Veterinary nutritionalist before going into a raw diet makes them disreputable, your definition of the word must be very narrow.

    BTW, I’m so sick of hearing that there is some Veterinary agenda to keep pets sick to line their own pockets, and quite honestly, I’ve had so many bad Vets that I’m no fan of the profession.

    #119727 Report Abuse
    Natasha C

    My vet advised me to switch my lab off of the grain free diet and not start my german shepherd puppy on it. The study showed higher incidents in large breed dogs, but also working breeds like labs and retrievers – those dogs apparently have a propensity to heart issues anyway. The presents a problem for me because my lab has allergies, which is why we had him on the grain free. Recently put him on lamb and brown rice – other than gas and mass quantities of poop, he seems fine. I think I am sticking to single protein kibble with a grain like rice and will see what additional studies show as time goes on. Staying away from potatoes and lentils for now. I don’t want to take any risks. Final note – once it was hard to find grain-free foods – now it is hard to find food WITH grains!

    #119849 Report Abuse

    Well crap. So this is why all those bags of Castor and Pollux Organic freeze dried Grain free Pristine Free-range Chicken dog food were slashed in half at PetCo. and on their clearance shelves.
    I bought like 5 bags. Dang it!
    I haven’t been feeding that exclusively to my dogs, but I’ve been using a small amount of it as a topper on top of their Wellness Complete + homemade quinoa mix. Sometimes I like to use a piece or two of the freeze dried kibble as a treat, because the freeze dried kibble quickly absorbs CBD oil and MCT oils and helps to deliver those kinds of supplements without any getting lost.
    Should I exercise extreme caution and cut out the Castor and Pollux of their diet completely or is it still okay in moderation?

    #119851 Report Abuse

    To ThisDogHunts,
    I would still feed the Castor and Pollux Organic freeze dried as long as he isn’t just eating
    the Castor and Pollux Organic freeze Dried & he’s eating other foods & as long as the Legumes are no more then 20%, your dog will be fine, start buying tin Sardines & tin Salmon in spring water, add 2 spoons to 1 of his meals a day or as a treat at lunch time, Sardines Salmon are high in Taurine, omega oils, vitamins & minerals…
    Check the use by date hasn’t expired or nearing the use by date, this is when dog foods are heaps cheaper & are still OK to eat when they pass their use by date.
    Freeze Dried foods can last years….
    I would of asked PetCo staff why is the Castor and Pollux Organic freeze Dried 1/2 price??

    #119861 Report Abuse

    @ Susan,
    Thanks for the reassuring help and advice.
    The PetCo. employees simply said that C&P were repackaging the product.
    Which appeared to be true at the time because they did have slightly different packaging on the shelf as oppose to the product in the clearance section. Ingredients appeared to be the same, with an expiration date that was up in a couple months. So I factored that in to why they probably wanted it out of the store ASAP.
    I sat there deliberating for about half an hour or so, over it and asked multiple employees what their thoughts were on the item.
    In the end, I just couldn’t pass up on it because freeze dried is always a premium priced item, and I’m already familiar with the brand, having fed my dogs their treats, so I just felt like it was a safe, healthy and well priced option.
    I’m just glad I didn’t start feeding that exclusively.
    I’ll continue to lightly top it or mingle it into the regular food.
    Thanks again for your help and suggestions.

    #119878 Report Abuse
    Mary M

    Thank you, Aimee and Patricia, for posting these insightful articles. I, too, had read the same information last week in The Washington Post. I have been feeding my German Shepherd Taste of the Wild kibble for years and The Washington Post actually printed a photo of bags of this very food. This was disheartening to see, and yes, I now want to switch his food. They cited symptoms such as coughing and excess panting which I have seen him do. I started him on grain free because I’d read that it is the best choice for dogs who are prone to seizures — which he is. His seizures were cut by 90% after switching to grain free. Now this. I will search this website (I’m a new member today) for articles on seizures and hope for positive info on a food that is not necessarily grain free. Also may try the sardines added once a week, as mentioned in Patricia’s article, for adding taurine.

    #119881 Report Abuse
    Lori Ann S

    My 14 month (now 17mths) old terrier mix developed bloody urine along with exhaustion with the little efforts in playing or anything after going on Rachel Ray’s nutrish grain free. She was on it for three months. She endured trays, ultrasounds, bloodwork, urine tests, etc… After thousands of dollars later no answers to cause other then puzzling dog food! Why would anyone think something that should be trusted to nourish the ones we love hurt them?! Well it is because I have change to hill’s and because of only the recent change of food she has made a great “recovery” only on early morning are we finding any reminence of visible blood. The rest of the day it has been clearing. Has anyone experienced any of this from RR’s?

    #119893 Report Abuse

    Hi Lori Ann,
    Please report this to FDA here’s the link

    Which Rachael Rays Nutrish formula were you feeding???
    I’ll check if it was high in Toxins & Contaminates for you as a few of Rachael Rays foods are very high in Toxins, Heavy Metals & Process Contaminates & Poor Quality Ingredients, so are few of the Fromm formula’s aswell….

    Here are all the Toxic Rachael Ray formula’s..

    * Rachael Ray Nutrish Turkey, Brown Rice & Venison Recipe Dry Dog Food – Heavy Metals High
    * Rachael Ray Nutrish Limited Ingredient Recipe Just 6 Lamb Meal and Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food – Heavy Metals High & Ingredient Quality Poor.
    * Rachael Ray Nutrish Grain Free Zero Grain Salmon and Sweet Potato Recipe Dry Dog Food – Heavy Metals High & Ingredient Quality Poor..
    * Rachael Ray Nutrish Real Beef and Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food – Heavy Metals High, Process Contaminates High & By-product Contaminates High.
    * Rachael Ray Nutrish Grain Free Zero Grain Turkey and Potato Recipe Dry Dog Food – Process Contaminates high & By-product Contaminates high.
    * Rachael Ray Nutrish Real Chicken and Veggies Recipe Dry Dog Food – Heavy Metals High & Ingredient Quality Poor.

    #119928 Report Abuse
    Ana C

    Just when we thought grain free dog food are good and now this? What should we do? Switch back to the regular dog food? I was also adding some wet dog food and I am now thinking about BPA. Do I need to worry about that?

    #119931 Report Abuse
    Patricia A
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