I was hoping the powers that be at this forum might comment on this article: Veterinarians are increasingly concerned about health risks posed by the grain-free pet-food craze.
A paper on the issue, released last month in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, offers similar caution: “Pet food marketing has outpaced the science, and owners are not always making healthy, science-based decisions even though they want to do the best for their pets.”
Hi Patti, I have been following this to. I feel as though grain in diets been around for a long time and pose no threat to dogs, unless they have an unusually allergy. I was never a fan of grain free diets from the beginning, I don’t feed comfortable in feeding legumes to a dog. Legumes contain certain properties that prohibit minerals and nutrients that they need. Furthermore it is so far from a Canines diet anyway. Tried and true is the way to go. And yes some dogs are really allergic to the protein not the grains. If your dog is okay with grains than I would just feed a grain in diet until this is under control. I know this is frustrating to a lot of people, but going back to the old school ways may make people understand that grains are not bad, unless of course a dog has an allergy. As far as gluten free goes that is just a gimmick, most dogs do NOT have celiac disease. I have read that people that don’t have celiac disease should not eat gluten free, because gluten is good for you it has nutrients that you need. OF course if you have celiac you should avoid gluten. We all have to educate our selves because companies will do what ever sells.
Also, I forgot to mention about exotic meats, be careful with them as well. These diets have not been around long enough to know how they will work. Do your research and choose wisely, don’t depend on marketing and hear say. There is a thread about canine heart disease that people have talked about. Look through diet and health and you will find the thread.
I’ve been reading more on this topic.
Apparently, grain-free diets can leave a dog with a taurine deficiency which can lead to Dilated cardiomyopathy, or DCM.
Currently, I’m feeding my dog Merrick Limited Ingredient Turkey, which is grain-free.
I’m going to follow the recommendation of Tuft’s Veterinary Hospital, and reconsider my dog’s diet. They say: “If you’re feeding a boutique, grain-free, or exotic ingredient diets, I would reassess whether you could change to a diet with more typical ingredients made by a company with a long track record of producing good quality diets.”
I think I’m going to switch to FreshPet Select Tender Chicken With Vegetables and Brown Rice.
If you’d like to read it, here’s the article from Tufts:
Hi Patti S-
Here is a link that may be of interest to you. It includes the article that you shared along with others. You may also consider joining their FB page. There are many knowledgeable vets as admins, including Joshua Stern, the cardiologist from U Davis who recently released study results on the subject.
I’m glad you are changing food. I also took mine off grain free and am now feeding Purina kibble with various toppers. Good luck!
Thank you for that link. I wish they would have named brand names for foods to consider. It would have made the job of finding a diet easier!
I’ve always fed my dogs foods with a “5 Star” rating from dog food advisor, thinking I was doing what was best for them. One of my dogs died two years ago from a cardiac condition, I’m absolutely mortified that the diet I chose for him may have contributed to his death.
See you on Facebook!
When all this news on taurine broke the other day, I wrote to Merrick, the manufacturer of the current dog food I’ve been using. They just got back to me, here is their response to my question of whether or not their canned dog food (Grain-free Turkey) has appropriate levels of taurine:
“Thank you for reaching out to us with your concern. We will be happy to tell you that all of our diets contain appropriate levels of cysteine and methionine, the amino acids that dogs use to make their own taurine. As the FDA continues to explore a possible link between diet and taurine deficiency, which is one potential cause of DCM, we have started supplementing taurine in all of our dry dog food recipes. The safety and quality of our pet food is our #1 priority, and we commit to working with the industry and FDA to help understand this potential issue. If you have any other questions please let us know.”
Good to know!
Hi Patti S-
Did you join the FB group? There are over 21,000 members now. Wow! Might be tough to take in all the info. Let me know if you have any questions. I joined it early on when it was easier to navigate!
It’s mind boggling to find a good quality dog food without lentils, peas, or potatoes! This health scare is sure going to shake up the dog food industry!
For the here and now (after a ton of reading) and just to be on the safe side, I’m going to rotate from canned Merrick Limited ingredient Turkey (which is grain-free), to canned Merrick Grain Free 96% (either chicken or beef). No potato, lentils, seeds, or starches made from those questionable ingredients, and still AAFCO approved for all life stages, and a 5 star rating here at dogfood advisor.
I’ve been on a crazy food journey with my dog. When I first adopted him 9 years ago, the kill shelter that I got him from tole me that he was full grown (40 pounds). That was far from the truth as he’s currently 120 pounds. My vet suggested Purina Pro Plan Large Breed Puppy for two years, followed by Pro Plan Large Breed Adult. My dog always had issues though with loose stools and itchy skin/biting paws/ear infections. I transitioned him to Blue Buffalo Large Breed Fish kibble and he did really well. Then I read about grain free and how it was so much better, so I came to this site to find the best foods. I read all these comments regarding Blue Buffalo and quickly started to look at their ” 5 star rated grain free” foods.
I’ve tried them all.
I’ve given each of them at least 6 months with proper transitioning. I always had issues. I’d go to the vet, he’d tell me to go off of the grain free and go back to Purina. But I can read the bag myself and it doesn’t look healthy at all. Blood results were normal. I’ve tried different proteins (chicken seemed to cause more issues). TOTW, Nutro, Instinct, Merrick, Solid Gold, Fromms, the list goes long.
I can’t even say that it has anything to do with grain free. Only, he’s been off it for a few months now and he’s eating right, has firm stools, and no skin issues. I’m at a loss. I explicitly chose foods from the 5 star list and now his food is rated 3.5 stars and he’s doing well, but I feel guilty giving him something perceived as ‘not good’.
@Patti_S – I do like the 96% single protein canned foods. I rotate using them as a topper with some canned salmon.
When I got my rescue Cocker Spaniel she was a mess – ear infections due to neglect, her improperly cropped tail ( looks like a done at home job…yikes) was swollen and split in two actually. She had bouts of rubbing her butt on the floor due to what think was an itch..
Long story short a Vet suggested perhaps some of the issues was due to a food allergy. I immediately jumped on the grain free train and the one I picked happened to be salmon based and lower in protein ( for a 7 year old dog). Her conditions did seem to improve.
The other day at a great new vet the doctor told me how much she was AGAINST grain free dog food as it can cause heart issues and she stated that usually a dog’s food allergy is due to the type of protein vs the grain.
It makes perfect sense to me and if you think about dog’s wild cousins (Wolves and Coyotes) they all eat some amount of grain…if they catch a rabbit or deer or mouse usually the prey has some grain in it’s stomach…right? This tells me a dog’s digestive system is probably geared to eating some amount of grain..perhaps not massive amounts though.
This differs greatly from say a cow which developed solely from grass eaters. There was not massive corn fields or wheat fields growing across the plains of Europe or America when cows were bred to what we have today and I have heard that the cattle industry is the single largest user of what is basically Tums to settle the cow’s upset stomach when it is forced to eat corn to fatten up.
All said and done I suspect my pup’s allergy was the protein vs the grain. I have switched to a regular salmon based dog food and she seems just fine and dandy. I will repost if her allergy returns.
Hope this helps a bit!
perhaps read my post to Patti. You mention the fish kibble seems to work best..maybe it is the protein? I assume the others you tried had protein other than fish – such as the chicken you mention or beef which is common?
My gal seems to do equally well on either grain free or regular salmon based food. beef seems the worst for her. Due to the concerns regarding “grain free” I am trying the regular salmon based food.
Also – I have learned that only a small percentage of dog allergies are food based with the majority being caused by environmental triggers just like humans. Grasses, pollen and even dust triggers reactions in effected dogs.
I hope your issue is easily resolved and hey a 3.5 star food isn’t necessarily bad. The reviewers tend to place emphasis on protein content etc…and frankly I try to have a lower but high quality protein percentage so as to avoid kidney issues later in life.
Solid Gold has a great Salmon based dry kibble but since the protein is only 21% it has a lower rating. Just food for thought. ( and btw I am not pushing a certain brand…I used to stand by Solid Gold but haven’t checked…they may be sold out to some super large corp now? And I do realize marketing image is always in play)
Thanks for your feedback.
I too have had dogs who didn’t do as well with a 5 star food. Every dog is an individual, and what’s terrific for one dog, may not be as great for another.
I’m about half way through the transition from Merrick Grain Free Turkey (canned) to Canidae All Life Stages Chicken (also canned), with no adverse reactions.
I supplement with PetKind Green Tripe & Red Meat dry food. It contains lentils, chick pea, peas & pea starch, and sweet potato, but they are way down in the ingredient list, so they aren’t the main component of the diet.
Anyone know of a decent dry food that’s completely free of those suspect ingredients?
- This reply was modified 9 months, 2 weeks ago by Patti S.
All of Farmina’s foods are free of those ingredients. Good food made with at least 90% animal protein. Annamaet grain inclusive foods do not have any of those ingredients either. I also like Purina Beyond grain inclusive foods, which are also free of all those ingredients.
Here is the latest from the FDA on the ongoing investigation into the ever increasing number of dogs and cats being diagnosed with Dilated Cardiomyopathy due to their diet:
Home » FDA asks pet food industry for DCM-related information
PET FOOD NEWS / PET FOOD INGREDIENTS / PET FOOD SAFETY
BY DEBBIE PHILLIPS-DONALDSON ON FEBRUARY 14, 2019
FDA asks pet food industry for DCM-related information
FDA needs pet food producers to report on any changes in ingredients, processing or formulation.
In its ongoing investigation into atypical cases of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) possibly related to grain-free pet food ingredients, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is asking the industry for information related to changes in ingredients, processing or formulation.
David Edwards, Ph.D., an officer with FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM)’s Office of Surveillance and Compliance, presented an updated on the agency’s DCM investigation during the American Feed Industry Association’s 12th Annual Pet Food Conference, held February 12 in conjunction with the International Production and Processing Expo in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
What FDA needs from pet food industry
Specifically, Edwards said, CVM needs information from pet food producers relative to the timeframe when most of the new cases of DCM were reported over the past few years, but mainly during 2018. He asked for input on changes in ingredients used, sourcing of ingredients, processing or formulation.
He also asked that pet food companies, academic programs and organizations such as the Pet Food Institute continue their own investigations on any potential issues with formulas and ingredients possibly related to this DCM situation.
Wide range of dogs reported among DCM cases
Through November 30, 2018, CVM had recorded 290 cases of DCM involving 325 dogs (plus a few cats) and 74 pet deaths, Edwards reported. The cases occurred from 2014 through 2018, but most were in 2018. He also presented demographic information showing a wide range of affected pets. For example, the most frequently reported dog breed was Golden Retrievers, with 61 dogs affected, while another 27 were mixed-breed and 25 were Labrador Retrievers. Other breeds with numbers in the double digits included Great Danes at 16 and Australian Shepherds at 11; Edwards listed 15 other breeds with three to nine dogs affected each.
Related to the variety of breeds affected, the dogs’ weight ranged from 8 to 212 pounds, with a mean of 68 pounds. They ranged in age from 0.42 to 16 years, with a mean of 6.5 years; 59 percent were male, 41 percent female.
Among the cats affected, ages ranged from 0.4 to 12 years; the mean was 5.5 years old. Their weight ranged from 7 to 13 pounds, with a mean of 11 pounds. The cats were 60 percent male, 40 percent female.
Dog foods and ingredients in DCM reports
Edwards also presented data on the types of dog foods and their ingredients in the reported DCM cases. The foods were predominantly dry (269 of the reports), with four raw and one each of wet and semi-moist. In 14 reports, multiple formulations were named; in five others, the foods were unknown.
Then Edwards provided a deeper dive into the formulations and ingredients for 196 of the reports, in which the affected dogs were fed a single, primary dog food:
About 90 percent of the diets were labeled grain free;
Of the other 10 percent of the foods, some were labeled vegan or vegetarian, while some contained brown rice;
A large proportion of the foods contained peas or lentils high on the ingredients list. In fact, peas appeared in 180 of the dog foods named in these 196 reports and lentils in 104 of the foods. Other ingredients presented by Edwards included potatoes, in 63 of the diets, plus sweet potatoes and chickpeas, each in 55 of the diets.
Edwards said that, before FDA issued its alert about these cases of DCM in July 2018, the agency had investigated for contaminants such as metals or improper levels of minerals and other nutrients in the cases reported to date. After the alert came out, FDA then bought some of the products named in the reports and tested them specifically for those same factors, among other things. All the tests before and after the alert were negative.
FDA is continuing its investigation, working with scientists and nutritionists in the Veterinary Laboratory and Investigation Response Network (Vet-LIRN), and also with veterinary cardiologists. The investigation has included nutritional and amino acid analyses of the foods reported and complete health histories of many of the dogs, Edwards said.
Based on the information gathered as part of our investigation to date, our advice to pet owners remains consistent. The agency has not identified specific recommendations about diet changes for dogs who are not displaying DCM symptoms, but encourages pet owners to consult directly with their veterinarians for their animal’s dietary advice. FDA-CVM investigative activities include:
Analyzing cases statistically to search for correlations between diagnosed DCM cases and what those dogs did or did not eat.
Working with the Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network (Vet-LIRN), a collaboration of government and veterinary diagnostic laboratories to test blood, serum and tissues from affected animals.
Collaborating with Chesapeake Veterinary Cardiology Associates (CVCA) to collect case summaries and blood/serum/tissue of dogs diagnosed with DCM to see if there are unique factors that separate diet-associated DCM from genetic. The FDA is also reviewing echocardiograms of dogs who are not showing symptoms of DCM to evaluate the significance of early changes in heart function.
Consulting with board certified veterinarians in animal nutrition to identify nutritional factors such as nutrient bioavailability and ingredient digestibility that may contribute to the development of heart disease.
Examining ingredient sourcing/processing and product formulation with pet food manufacturers.
Most of the kibble in US includes protein sources like beef, chicken and eggs, and grains, cereals, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. So there is less chance that Grain diets is linked to heart diseases.
Grain food like biscuits and cake have been there for so many years, so blaming grain diet solely is not possible. Just like human there might be some other factors.
However, to my surprise medications advised to treat human ailments such as infections, arthritis, or even diabetes can treat the same ailments in pets.
There’s anti-depressants that are used in pets for anxiety and behavioral concerns. Several antibiotics are safe for our pets that are safe for humans.
Generic Viagra is also prescribed my Vets to control heart disease.
I agree Robert. Well said.
Just wanted to mention that both Hill’s and purina are coming out with quiet a bit of grain free foods. Another reason to completely take away their credibility on the issue. The hills foods is almost nothing but peas and potatoes. Wonder how much “science” went behind that. Same with the proplan varieties. Mostly made up of pea and potatoe.
I can’t understand why in the world would they do that, knowing what the concerns are about DCM? I guess it is competition, all about money. Still don’t know how even that can be knowing some people are not buying grain free that much.
- This reply was modified 4 months, 4 weeks ago by joanne l.
I just got a brain storm, I was thinking since Purina and Hills know that more people are buying their food with all this going on, maybe they want more business and are offering a lot of variety to really take in more customers. Because they know people are trusting them more than the BEG brands. So they are taking full advantage of this. Pretty slick but that is just a far out thought I had.
- This reply was modified 4 months, 4 weeks ago by joanne l.
here I found this on the news I felt really bad for this service dog, but he is recovering and is taking a lot of meds and he is 5 years old GSD. https://www.kwch.com/content/news/511989112.html
As I recall when I talked to Purina years ago I think they said it is 3-5 years from concept to sales of a product. Similar for Hill so if products are coming out they were in the works for some time.
Hill’s Ideal balance line was discontinued and their Bioactive line launched. Brands and products come and go.
The DCM faebook group is full of heartbreaking DCM cases… tissue needed
Thanks Aimee, and I know I really feel for these dogs.
In light of the most recent update issued regarding FDA CVM’s Investigation between the relationship between diet and canine heart disease (DVM), I decided to review the 500+ case reports from the 5-year period studied. The published incidence rate including breeds with a genetic propensity for DCM is estimated to be between 0.1-0.2%.
We own a 9-1/2 year old, neutered Australian Shepherd who we have been feeding Orijen dry foods all of his life. When I look at Orijen (we feed Adult, Regional Red & Senior) I see lugumes and pulses, but well down the ingredient list by weight. That said, there a dozen cases of DCM associated with the brand. I do realize that the incidence rate is influenced on how widely a food is selling.
There were 10 case reports of Australian Shepherds (the summary shows n=13 but I could not find them) and DCM out of the 515 canine cases reported (or about 2%). The observed rate out of the dog’s within the cases is > 10x the general population rate for ALL dogs. This struck me as not happening by “chance”.
I reviewed the listed dog foods fed to the Australian Shepherds and then looked into what their current top 10 ingredients for legumes, pulses and tubers:
Case 1) Nature’s Recipe Easy to Digest Fish meal and Potato recipe dry dog food: Potatoes
Case 2) Zignature Kangaroo and Lentil: Peas, Chickpeas, Pear Flower, Red Lentils, Green Lentils
Case 3) Fromm Pork and Pea: Peas, Chickpeas, Pea Flower, Pea Protein, Sweet Potatoes
Case 4) Blue Buffalo wilderness natures evolutionary diet with chicken and lifsource bits: Pea Protein, Peas, Pea Starch, Pea Fiber, Potatoes
Case 5a) Farmina N&D Pumpkin Formula Medium and Maxi: Pea Starch, Dried Pumpkin, Pea Fiber
Case 5b) Kirkland Natures Domain Salmon and Sweet Potato: Sweet Potatoes, Peas, Potatoes, Pea Protein, Potato Fibre
Case 5c) Kirkland Organic Chicken and Pea: Organic Peas, Organic Lentils, Organic Garbanzo Beans, Organic Sweet Potatoes, Organic Potatoes
Cases 6 & 7) Pine Forest Canine Recipe with Venison & Legumes – Taste of the Wild Pet Food: Garbanzo Beans, Peas, Lentils, Pea Protein, Pea Flour, Fava Beans
Case 8) Earthborn grain free (specific variety not declared): Peas, Pea Protein, Pea Starch, Chickpeas
Case 9) Hill’s Ideal Balance Grain Free Chicken and Potato: Potatoes, Yellow Peas, Pea Protein, Potato Starch
Case 10) Acana (all flavors except Chicken or Lamb): Whole Red Lentils, Whole Pinto Beans, Whole Green Peas, Whole Green Lentils, Whole Chickpeas
I see a consistent use of legumes or tubers as ingredients among these foods (including Hills!). I work in R&D and while I agree the root cause may not be fully understood and the rates shown in the pareto chart are biased by how widely used a food is I can see why the Agency sent out the notification. Given the > 90% rate in the reported cases of grain free, legume formulated foods, I have made the decision to move our Australian Shepherd to a new dry food. So I have been trying to identify high quality grain inclusive dry foods to replace Orijen. So far I have identified:
N&D Ancestral Grain Chicken & Pomegranate Senior Mini & Medium
N&D Ancestral Grains Grains Chicken & Pomegranate Senior Medium & Maxi
Reduced Activity Senior Gold
Canine Beef Meal Feasts
Canine Chicken Meal Feasts
Canine Lamb Meal Feasts
Canine Turkey Meal Feasts
Lamb Meal & Rice
Beef & Rice
We will begin to titrate him off Orijen onto some of these foods. We will first buy small bags to see how he a) likes them and b) his stool quality and general energy/health.
Do any of you have any experience with these foods or have any other suggestions for me to consider?
Robert since kibble is a VERY small portion of my dogs’ diet I can’t make a suggestion if you feed this exccluviley. I only use as a base and I always rotate with at least two manufactors/brands as well as different proteins/flavors. No problems with digestion since I do it VERY slowly. When I’m about 1/4 done with one bag I start introducing a few kibbles of the new one. I use toppers always. Be it boiled chicken, lean steak if they’re lucky that day lol, string beans, boiled fish if we have such as salmon . Didn’t catch any keepers on the party boat or they would have enjoyed some fresh Fluke. Watermelon is their favorite. Don’t be afraid of giving real food as a topper for kibble also. A little at a time to see how well he does.
Most of the time they get a topper of Primal. I stick to the 5* lower in fat.NO legumes or potatoes in Primal. https://primalpetfoods.com/collections/canine-raw-freeze-dried-formulas. Some dogs are prone to pancreatitis with the higher fat proteins. I use turkey/Sardine, Duck, rabbit at times in the freeze dried. Just break up and moisten with warm water and add the dry kibble on the side. Again I started with a little piece and GRADUALLY added each to my rotation. I use Stella Chewy’s https://www.stellaandchewys.com in rotation freeze dried again in turkey, chicken and venison blend. All 5* by the advisor. NO LEGUMES or potatoes in their freeze dried. They have a very popular f/b page and pets are doing very well with these freeze dried toppers.I feel good about giving variety and my Chihuahuas’ are healthy on exams. Hope this helps .
Robert since your dog is not used to rotating dog foods I wouldn’t recommend doing that. However all the foods you mentioned seem good, what ever you go with please do it very slowly. He is older and needs more time to adjust to it. If you find one of them he likes and does well on than leave him on that. Some people here change diet a lot but I don’t recommend you to do that, you could make him sick. So find one and stick with it. Also what ever protein he was eating with Orjien use the same protein in the new food. As far as which one I don’t know. Maybe try Natures Logic.
Thanks for the comments. I am familiar with best practice switching protocols and we’ll go slowly. He rotates regularly within the Orijen line with no transition without event. With these switches we’ll transition gradually (1/4, 1/2, 3/4 across a week or so). We’ll try Farmina first, Fromm second, Nature’s Logic third.
The study is flawed, the author has corrected the panicked statement made by the FDA, and it’s restricted to certain brands. My dog had diarrhea and itching all over her body for a year, with a vet hawking Hill’s super expensive food, which made things worth. Finally looked at the label and discovered corn was the main ingredient. Switched to grain-free, and lo and behold? Symptoms gone. My dogs have all been on grain-free since, and have had numerous checks at the vet and guess what? Perfectly healthy! Put her back on a grained food – no corn – and the sores broke out on her tummy again. So yeah… Let’s not cause more panic. Check the brands listed and switch to a different brand of grain-free. I don’t use any of those brands.
The author of the study: “It’s not just grain-free”
DCM Study Misses the Big Picture
The study may be flawed, and I can only speak for myself, but I’ll wait for the FDA to weigh in rather than relying on anybody’s personal experience.
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