Since 2018, the FDA has been investigating atypical cases of a heart disease called DCM in dogs fed certain diets. Research in this area has been occurring rapidly, and a new study provides data that may be the most compelling direct evidence of causation to-date.
Read more about diet-associated DCM at the following links:
2023 FDA Data on DCM Case Reports
VIN News: Research hones in on dietary link to heart ailment in dogs
Petfoodology: Diet-associated dilated cardiomyopathy: The cause is not yet known but it hasn’t gone away
Literature discussed: “Effects of a 28-day feeding trial of grain-containing versus pulse-based diets on cardiac function, taurine levels and digestibility in domestic dogs” Quilliam C, Reis LG, Ren Y, Ai Y, Weber LP., PLoS One. 2023 May 25
Key takeaway: Beagles fed high-pea, high-amylose diets developed DCM-like changes on echocardiogram after only 28 days of feeding. These changes were not observed in the control-diet, rice-diet, or lentil-diet groups.
Funding: Alberta Pulse Growers, Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers, Ontario Bean Growers, Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, Pulse Canada, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), Alliance Grain Traders (Saskatoon, SK Canada), Horizon Pet Foods (Rosthern, SK Canada) and Dr. Tom Warkentin (University of Saskatchewan, SK).
For this study, 8 beagle dogs were fed different diets for 4 weeks at a time, with assessment of digestibility, whole blood and plasma including amino acid analysis, and ultrasound and analyte cardiac health monitoring. The beagles were initially fed a commercial grain-inclusive diet as a control, then experimental diets that were rice-based, lentil-based, rice-based, and pea-based, in that order, to allow a wash-out period between each grain-free experimental diet.
Relevant differences in assessments of the dogs included:
Significantly high levels of NT-ProBNP after consumption of the pea-diet, not observed after the other diets. This is a potential indicator of stress and stretch of cardiac muscles.
Significant increase in left ventricular internal diameter after consumption of the pea-diet, not observed after the other diets. This is a potential DCM-like change, though it remained subclinical and within the normal reference interval.
Lowest stroke volume and cardiac output was documented after consumption of the pea-diet compared to the other diet types.
Some differences in the diets included:
The pea-diet was highest in amylose, a type of starch
High molecular weight dietary fiber was highest in the grain-free diets
Apparent total tract digestibility of crude protein and fat was lowest in the grain-free diets
Taurine was similar among all diets
The grain-free diets were lower in Cystine+Methionine than the rice diet and both grain-free diets had lower Cystine+Methionine digestibility
Taken alongside the over a dozen other studies published on atypical, non-hereditary, diet-associated DCM, this provides a relatively clear picture of dietary causation, and additional clues towards possible causative mechanisms. Future studies should be able to more clearly hone in on the pathophysiology leading to these observations, and hopefully provide clarity on problematic formulation such as to reduce future incidence of this disease associated with commercially available diets.
If you enjoyed this article, you may also like:
Disinformation Still Dominates Diet & DCM Dialogue
Change of diet reduces measurement of heart damage marker in dogs fed grain-free
Another DCM study (2022) shows improved cardiac parameters when changing from non-traditional diet
Diet-Associated / Non-Hereditary DCM Q&A (2021)
Diet-Associated Timeline (Routinely updated)
Facebook Group Diet-Associated Dilated Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Dogs
Sub-group for Veterinary Professionals
Follow me on Social Media: @AllTradesDVM
Facebook Twitter Instagram
Consider supporting the blog: