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DCM Due to Diet - FDA UPDATE 6/27/19

Discussion in 'Doberman Nutritional Care' started by Rits, Jun 21, 2017.

  1. strykerdobe

    strykerdobe Hot Topics Subscriber

    Actually today (Thursday) there will be a Facebook Live at 1230 EST

    CVCA Cardiac Care for Pets
    CVCA Cardiac Care for Pets
    September 8 at 7:00 AM ·
    Join us for our first Facebook Live Stream! Dr. Rosenthal will be taking and answering questions in real-time!

    --Topic: Grain-Free Dog Food and Heart Disease

    --Date and Time: Thursday, September 13th @ 12:30 p.m. EST.

    --Presenter: Steven Rosenthal, DVM, Diplomate, ACVIM (Cardiology)

    Can't make the Facebook Live Stream? Submit your questions in the comment section below [​IMG] and we will try to answer them for you. When the Live Stream is over, we will post the video here on our Facebook page for your convenience!

    We look forward to you joining us on Sept. 13th!

    To learn more about CVCA Cardiac Care for Pets, visit our website at www.cvcavets.com [​IMG]
    #cvcavets #cvcaheartstrong #vetcardiologists #grainfreedogfoods #FDA

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  2. Rits

    Rits Admin Administrative Staff Moderator Hot Topics Subscriber

    Its difficult to recommend anything for me personally since I have opted to not test my senior dogs. So I do not want to tell you one food is ok when I'm simply trying to take the info there is and make the best decision I can. I was feeding Orijen prior too. Dr. Stern says none of the suspect ingredients in the top 5. FDA doesn't recommend any. Since I am not testing, I chose to play it safe and stay away from them period until more concrete info is out there.

    The suspect ingredients are: legumes (peas, lentils, beans etc.) and potatoes (white and sweet). Dried beet pulp was mentioned earlier but in the FB group they are saying that was a concern based off of one study and those that fed a protein already low in taurine (lamb) so it shouldn't be a concern now.

    The media is labeling this as affecting grain free diets but these ingredients can also be found in grain inclusive diets and premade raw too, so be careful.

    I recently switched to Nature's Logic (has grain, millet) because I was happy with the low carb % and the variety of proteins. I'll update what I think of it once I've been through a bag or two. Nature's Variety Ultimate Protein is another option (grain free). I think someone else switched to Nutri Source (grain). Earthborn Holisitic Venture Alaska Pollock (grain free) seemed to be ok too as far as not having suspect ingredients but its high in carbs. Those that want to feed pre-made raw Ziwi Peak is ok but $$$. In the end, you will have to do some of your own research now that you are armed with this info and decide what you are ok with feeding. :)
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  3. NikiL02

    NikiL02 Formerly Nlr02 $ Forum Donor $

    I am going to switch to the normal non-grain version of his current food and supplement with taurine. Not sure I still need to supplement if I change foods?
  4. strykerdobe

    strykerdobe Hot Topics Subscriber

    If you missed the CVCA on Facebook live it will be repeated.
  5. NikiL02

    NikiL02 Formerly Nlr02 $ Forum Donor $

    Cardiologist. He is already on a fish oil. She does do holters as well but said everything function wise looked normal. She will go over her notes and send me a report. That's how it worked out with my cat. I can post the info after she gets it.
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  6. strykerdobe

    strykerdobe Hot Topics Subscriber

  7. strykerdobe

    strykerdobe Hot Topics Subscriber


    Feeding Kibble? Do This Now to Protect Your Dog's Heart
    September 19, 2018
    Story at-a-glance
    • The recent news that grain-free kibble may be linked to diet-related heart disease in dogs is now spreading rapidly in the pet community
    • The FDA is also now involved, issuing a consumer alert in mid-July about grain-free dog food and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)
    • The processed pet food industry has also taken note, and is concerned that the FDA’s alert is causing panic among consumers that may impact its bottom line
    • If you’re feeding kibble, consider transitioning to a more species-appropriate diet; if you’re worried about your dog’s heart health, make an appointment with your veterinarian
    • Until much more information is available, it may be a good idea to supplement your dog’s diet with foods high in taurine
    By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

    Not long ago, I wrote about a sudden and disturbing rise in cases of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs. DCM is a form of heart disease that is common in cats, but is rarely seen in dogs except for breeds predisposed to the condition, such as Great Danes, Boxers, Newfoundlands, Irish Wolfhounds, Saint Bernards, Doberman Pinschers and Cocker Spaniels.

    The recent increase in canine DCM appears to be diet-related, since some affected dogs are deficient in the amino acid taurine, which can lead to DCM, and all of the dogs are eating grain-free kibble containing potatoes, peas, lentils and other legumes. For the record, meat is a primary source of dietary taurine; meat content is often low in plant- and starch-based kibble formulas.

    The news about DCM, dogs and grain-free kibble is now spreading through the pet community like wildfire. Example: According to a report by an Indianapolis news channel, nearly three dozen canine patients at one veterinary clinic, including Labrador and Golden Retrievers, a Bulldog and mixed breeds, have developed DCM, and they all had one thing in common — a diet of grain-free kibble.1

    FDA Is Now Involved
    In mid-July, the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) issued a warning to pet parents:

    “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is alerting pet owners and veterinary professionals about reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating certain pet foods containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes as main ingredients. These reports are unusual because DCM is occurring in breeds not typically genetically prone to the disease.”2

    Cases reported to the FDA included Golden and Labrador Retrievers, Whippets, a Shih Tzu, a Bulldog and Miniature Schnauzers, as well as mixed breeds. The diets of the dogs “… frequently list potatoes or multiple legumes such as peas, lentils, other ‘pulses’ (seeds of legumes), and their protein, starch and fiber derivatives early in the ingredient list, indicating that they are main ingredients.”

    According to the FDA, reports from veterinary cardiologists indicate that affected dogs consistently ate the foods as their primary diet for months or years. The agency warns that changes in diet, especially for dogs with DCM, should be made in consultation with a veterinarian.

    Medical records for four of the cases reported to the FDA, involving three Goldens and a Lab, showed low blood levels of taurine. However, four other dogs with DCM — a Miniature Schnauzer, Shih Tzu and two Labs — had normal blood taurine levels.

    This is one of the reasons this issue is so complicated. Not every “atypical” dog who has recently developed DCM is taurine-deficient. In addition, we don’t know how ingredients typically found in grain-free dry diets are linked to taurine deficiency or other underlying causes of DCM.

    The FDA is working with veterinary cardiologists and nutritionists to better understand the problem, and has also been in contact with pet food manufacturers. The agency is encouraging pet parents and veterinary staff to report cases of potential diet-related DCM in dogs using the electronic Safety Reporting Portal or calling their state’s FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinators.

    In early August, the FDA’s CVM published a list of questions and answers for consumers regarding the investigation into a possible connection between diet and canine DCM.

    Pet Food Industry Response
    As we know, big pet food loves non-animal meat, plant-based ingredients because they’re plentiful and cheap. The industry spends lots of money looking for new, “innovative,” biologically inappropriate dog and cat food ingredients, and doing research to determine how much of those ingredients pets can tolerate before they develop digestive issues or other changes in their health.

    Needless to say, pet food industry journal articles written in defense of their much-loved ingredients have been increasing in number since mid-July when the FDA issued its warning. Examples of some recent and predictable headlines:

    • July 13 — Potatoes, peas, lentils correlated to dog heart disease. The FDA does not yet know how these ingredients are linked to cases of dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs.3
    • July 19 — Not all legumes implicated in FDA dog heart disease study. FDA’s investigation is just beginning and not all legume seeds, a group including beans, are implicated.4
    • Also July 19 — Do peas and potatoes really cause heart disease in dogs? As opposed to focusing on how to make a nutritionally balanced diet, some pet foods may be pushing the boundaries of extreme nutrition in a quest to find shelf space.5
    • August 3 — 6 studies related to dog food and canine heart disease. Evidence may suggest correlations between dog food ingredients, taurine and canine dilated cardiomyopathy.6
    • August 9 — Don't panic yet about peas and potatoes in dog food diets. There is likely more to this DCM story than only grain-free pet foods.7
    It’s worth noting that since pet food ingredient studies are typically small and limited in scope, and even pet food trials before a new diet goes to market are of short duration, there are no long-term studies on the effects of feeding pets a biologically inappropriate diet for months, years or a lifetime.

    ‘Unnecessary Panic’ Could Have a ‘Catastrophic Impact’ on Big Pet Food
    Here’s what the magazine Pet Business, “The only publication devoted to helping pet retailers improve their profits,” has to say about the FDA’s alert:

    “While the FDA’s recent announcement about a possible link between certain grain-free foods and heart disease in dogs could have serious implications for the health of many canines, there is a troubling lack of information behind this announcement — and that could very well result in an unnecessary panic that would have catastrophic impact on the pet food industry.”8

    This statement doesn’t speak well for either Pet Business or the pet retailers it serves. One would hope the first concern would be for the health of dogs and not pet food industry profits. The article ends with this:

    “… t seems quite premature for the FDA to speculate on a potential link between grain-free diets and heart disease in dogs, particularly given the mountain of evidence that we have to the contrary — in the form of the millions of dogs that have enjoyed great health while being fed these diets for years.

    Of course, we all would want to know if real evidence of such a connection is found, including the manufacturers of grain-free diets. But in today’s age of media sensationalism and click-bait culture, issuing premature warnings — particularly from trusted agencies like the FDA — seems like a recipe for disaster.”

    Pet Business seems to wish the FDA had kept the “secret” to itself until more information is available to avoid creating a potential financial disaster for the pet food industry. Once again, one would hope to see more concern for dogs and their owners.

    If You’re Concerned About Your Own Dog
    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. However, the problem with grain-free formulas isn’t the lack of grains. At a minimum, it’s the high level of starchy carbohydrates coupled with the extreme high-heat processing methods used to produce these diets.

    If you’re feeding kibble (grain-based or grain-free), this may be a good time to consider transitioning your dog to a more appropriate diet. You can find my recommendations and the reasoning behind them here: “From Best to Worst — My New Rankings of 13 Pet Foods.”

    Until we have much more information on the link between canine DCM and diet, I think it’s a good idea 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 2 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, 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 starting with a visit to your veterinarian.

    - Sources and References

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  8. NikiL02

    NikiL02 Formerly Nlr02 $ Forum Donor $

    As promised, here is Nero's Cardiology report. I removed names for privacy purposes.
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  9. MyBuddy

    MyBuddy Moderator Hot Topics Subscriber

    Are cats at risk with this too?? My daughter just told me her friends cat just dropped dead! I was like, What?? It was barely 2 years old~! One minute it was fine, the next, dead. She said the Vet said it had a heart attack! I said its so unusual for a 2 year old cat to die of a heart attack! She said That's what the Vet said! :wideyed:

    Alarm bells were ringing in my head!! Could it have been DCM??? No necropsy was done. The food fed was Royal Cain. :feedback:
  10. strykerdobe

    strykerdobe Hot Topics Subscriber

    Yes it’s possible.

    Back in the late 70’s to the late 80’s thousands of cats were dying from heart issues. Then they found out there was no Taurine add to cat food! This was before grain free foods came to market.

    Any cats or dogs that are dying at such an early age and the Vet suspects a heart attack, schooldays have a necropsy done!

    For one no cats should be on any type of Kibble. Cats need moisture in their foods. So canned would be mush better. But Raw wold be best!

    Thousands of Cat Deaths Traced to Pet Food Deficiency
    • Informative Informative x 1
  11. NikiL02

    NikiL02 Formerly Nlr02 $ Forum Donor $

    My cats both eat a high protein diet. Even though the one shouldn't, as he has hypercalcemia. I make sure the first 5 ingredients are meat proteins. I've seen veterinarians online who say that the worst canned food is better than the best kibble for cats. We also give canned but I can't afford it everyday in the amounts that 2 cats would require (even though they're both about 10lbs!)
  12. strykerdobe

    strykerdobe Hot Topics Subscriber

    Robin Loreth posted in DDP Doberman Diversity Project (Support for DDP Participants).

    Robin Loreth
    October 1 at 11:26 PM

    An update for you, courtesy of the board-certified veterinary cardiologist that presented to the Mt. Hood DPCA/DDP/Embark summit last March.
    Dr. Atkinson wanted to share this information created by a group of board-certified cardiologists through UC DAVIS and the Veterinary Information Network. She agrees with their recommendations.
    Diet-Related Myocardial Failure in Dogs
    July 23, 2018 (published on-line at VIN)
    Mark Rishniw; Paul Pion; Mark Kittleson
    In 2018, anecdotal reports emerged that some grain-free diets, or diets containing legumes as the main non-meat component, were resulting in taurine deficiency and potentially contributing to dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)
    Clinical Use Information
    What is the latest information about myocardial failure and grain-free diets? Which diets have been implicated? What should I do if a client is feeding grain-free diets to their dog(s)? How much taurine should I supplement? Can I overdose with taurine? What resources are available for me and my clients?
    What is the latest information about myocardial failure and grain-free diets?
    As of July 2018, several cardiologists have examined this issue and have not come to a single conclusion — some have implicated diets and taurine deficiency in specific breeds (e.g. Golden Retrievers) (Olsen 2018) (Morris Animal Foundation 2017), while others have shown a relationship between the implicated diets and DCM but failed to find a strong association with taurine deficiency (Adin et al 2018).
    In July 2018, the FDA issued a warning that some diets might be associated with DCM. However, the association is far from established or clear. They issued an update to the original warning on 8/10/2018.
    Which diets have been implicated?
    Multiple diets have been implicated. One of the most common implicated diets is the Acana Pork and Squash Singles diet, although Nutrisource grain-free food has been mentioned as well. It is important to understand that any of the grain-free diets could be problematic (although there is currently no conclusive evidence that they are causal). In one study, Kangaroo and Red Lentil diet was implicated (Adin et al 2018). Therefore, rather than focusing on specific brands, clinicians should focus on the main ingredients in any "grain-free" diet. Clinicians should note that several companies manufacturing such diets have started to address the concerns by producing marketing literature and possibly changing diet composition, but this does not mean that a particular diet is "OK". If it's grain-free and legume-based, then it is considered a suspect diet.
    What should I do if a client is feeding grain-free diets to their dog(s)?
    There are several options that clinicians can consider, depending on the clinical presentation.
    1. For dogs without cardiac clinical signs that appear healthy, changing the diet is the simplest and most conservative action until more definitive information relating to this emerging pattern is discerned.
    2. If the owners do not wish to change the diet as a preventive measure without more information, consider an echocardiogram and testing taurine concentration in plasma and whole blood (see this link for sampling methods and submission requirements).
    3. If myocardial failure is identified, change the diet and consider taurine supplementation regardless.
    4. If taurine concentration is low, change the diet and initiate taurine supplementation
    5. Repeat the echocardiogram in 4 to 6 months to assess resolution of the myocardial failure.
    6. Report your findings to the FDA.
    7. If the owners do not wish to change the diet or perform an echocardiogram, test the dog’s taurine concentration (plasma and/or whole blood).
      1. If low, supplement with taurine and strongly encourage changing diets to one not implicated in the problem.
      2. If normal, encourage the owners to keep abreast of evolving information on this issue.
    8. If the owners are unwilling to change the diet and are unwilling or unable to afford an echocardiogram and taurine analysis, strongly encourage the owners to supplement the diet with taurine, which is safe and inexpensive
    How much taurine should I supplement? Can I overdose with taurine?
    Safe doses of taurine are in the range of 250 mg per day for long-term supplementation. Acute dosing, in situations where a rapid correction is required are in the 500 mg to 1 gm per day range for most dogs (approximately 50 mg/kg/day). Whether large doses of taurine can cause problems is not well understood, but some researchers have raised concerns that long-term overdosing can cause problems. Therefore, high doses of taurine should be used only in cases where myocardial failure has been documented and only for 2-3 months, which myocardial function is being restored.
    What resources are available for me and my clients?
    • You can refer your clients to Lisa Freeman’s blog that discusses this issue in detail.
    • The UC Davis website also has a page discussing the issue and the studies that are currently under way.
    1. Adin D, DeFrancesco T, Keene B, Tou SB, Meurs K, Atkins CB, Aona BB, Kurtz KB, Barron LB. Echocardiographic Phenotype of Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy Differs Based on Diet. ACVIM Forum 2018.
    Rounds and Other Resources
    1. Olsen J. Taurine Deficiency Induced Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Golden Retrievers. 2018
    2. Morris Animal Foundation. Researchers getting closer to understanding dietary taurine and heart disease in dogs. 2017
    3. Measuring Taurine — VIN Medical FAQ
    4. How to report a pet food complaint to the FDA.
  13. MyBuddy

    MyBuddy Moderator Hot Topics Subscriber

    @Oh Little Oji Isn't Nutrisource the food you are transitioning to?
  14. Oh Little Oji

    Oh Little Oji Formerly Tad Hot Topics Subscriber $ Forum Donor $

    Yes, we are on Nutrisource now. It's not grain free though. We did one 30 lb. bag of Trout and Rice and now we have a 30 lb. bag of Lamb and Rice. His stools were worse on the Trout & Rice than they were on TOTW.
    • Empathetic Empathetic x 2
  15. strykerdobe

    strykerdobe Hot Topics Subscriber

    The Heart of the Matter

    The Science Dog
    By Linda P. Case

    The Heart of the Matter

    In mid-July, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released an alert to veterinarians and pet owners regarding reports of increased incidence of a heart disease called canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). This disorder is characterized by weakening of the heart muscle, which leads to a decreased ability of the heart to pump, and if untreated, to cardiac failure. The reported cases occurred in breeds that are not considered to be genetically predisposed to this disorder.

    Further, a significant number of the dogs were found to have reduced levels of circulating taurine in their blood and have responded positively to taurine supplementation. It is speculated that these cases are related to the consumption of foods that negatively affect taurine status, leading to taurine-deficiency DCM. Foods containing high levels of peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes were identified by the FDA as potential risk factors. These ingredients are found commonly in foods that are formulated and promoted as “grain-free.”

    As these things go, there followed a lot of hype and a fair bit of hysteria in response. Let us avoid this type of reaction and instead look at the evidence – what do we currently know about the role of diet and taurine in the development of DCM in dogs and how is it that “grain-free” foods have been recently targeted as a possible dietary cause?

    What is Taurine? The nutrient taurine is a unique type of amino acid, called a beta-amino sulfonic acid. It is not incorporated into proteins but rather is found primarily as a free amino acid in body tissues and circulating in the blood. Taurine has many functions, but two that are important for this discussion involve its role in normal heart function and its presence as a component of bile acids, which are needed for fat digestion. Most animals obtain adequate taurine to meet their needs by producing it endogenously (in the body) from two other amino acids, methionine and cysteine.


    This means that while animals require taurine physiologically, most do not have a dietary requirement for taurine. The exception to this rule is the cat. Cats (but not dogs) always require a source of taurine in their food. If they do not have it, one of the diseases that they can develop (and possibly die from) is……you guessed it…..DCM.

    Taurine-deficiency DCM is well documented in cats. We also know quite a lot about the dietary factors that contribute to this disease in that species. In contrast, dogs (usually) do not require a source of dietary taurine. However, we know that some dogs still develop taurine-deficiency DCM. Why does this happen? The history of DCM in cats can help in untangling what may be occurring in dogs.

    Taurine-deficiency DCM in Cats: Looking back, I cannot avoid a sense of déjà vu. In the early 1980s veterinarians began reporting increased incidences of DCM in pet cats. By 1987, a role for dietary taurine was suspected. In a seminal study, a veterinary researcher at UC Davis reported low plasma (blood) taurine levels in 21 cats with clinical signs of DCM (1). When the cats were supplemented with taurine, all 21 completely recovered from the disease. This discovery led to a series of controlled studies that supported the existence of taurine-deficiency DCM developing in cats who were fed diets that contained sufficient concentrations of taurine.

    What was going on?

    It has to do with Bile Acids: Another role of taurine is the body is that it is necessary for normal bile acid function. Taurine is linked to bile acids in the liver to form bile salts. These compounds are secreted into the small intestine during digestion where they function to aid in fat digestion. Animals are very efficient at conserving the taurine that is secreted into the intestine by reabsorbing the bile salts back into the body further down the intestinal tract. This occurs through a process called “enterohepatic reutilization” and prevents a daily loss of taurine in the feces.

    Herein lies the problem for cats with DCM: If anything happens during digestion that causes the degradation of the bile salt taurine or that inhibits its reabsorption into the body, more is lost in the feces. If this happens consistently, the cat will experience an increase in his or her daily need for dietary taurine. Simply put – if anything causes the cat to poop out more taurine-bile acid complexes (or their degraded by-products), the cat will be in danger of a taurine deficiency if a higher level is not provided in the diet.

    This is exactly what was happening in the cats with taurine-deficiency DCM – and is possibly what we are seeing today in dogs. The difference is that we know what diet factors caused taurine deficiency in cats during the late 1980s. These factors are not yet fully understood for dogs (but we can make a few guesses).

    Here is What We Know: The studies with cats found that several dietary factors influenced taurine status (2,3,4). These were the level and type of dietary protein, the amount and type of dietary fiber, and the degree of heat treatment that was used during food processing. These factors could affect taurine status in three ways:

    1. Bile Acid Binding: Certain fibers and peptides (small protein chains) in the food can bind with bile salts the small intestine and make them unavailable for reabsorption into the body. This results in an increased daily loss of taurine in the feces and a subsequent increase in daily taurine requirement to replace that loss.
    2. Increased Microbial Degradation: Thermal processing of protein (extrusion or canning) can lead to the production of Maillard products – complexes of sugars and amino acids and are poorly digested in the small intestine. The undigested complexes travel to the large intestine and provide an intestinal environment that favors increased numbers of taurine-degrading bacteria. An increase in these bacterial populations reduces the proportion of taurine that is available for reabsorption and reuse by the body.
    3. Reduced Taurine Availability: Taurine is found naturally in animal-based proteins but is not found in plant-based protein sources. Therefore, providing diets that include a sufficient level of high-quality animal proteins (that are not heat damaged) should ensure adequate taurine intake. However, protein that is of low quality or that has been excessively heat-treated will be poorly digested, reducing the availability of taurine and of its precursor amino acids, cysteine and methionine. (Note: Cats produce small amounts of taurine from these precursors, while dogs can produce all of their needs from them, if adequate levels are available).
    In response to new information regarding the interaction of dietary factors and taurine status in cats (and their relationship to DCM in cats), the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) increased the recommendations for dietary taurine in extruded and canned cat foods in the early 1990s. The current recommendations are 1000 mg taurine/kg (0.1 %) in dry (extruded) cat foods and 2000 mg taurine/kg (0.2 %) in canned cat foods.

    So, What about Dogs? Unlike the cat, dogs that are fed diets containing adequate levels of protein should be capable of synthesizing enough taurine from the two amino acid precursors, cysteine and methionine, to meet their needs. Therefore, a requirement for dietary taurine has not been generally recognized in dogs.

    Breed Predispositions: However, there is evidence – evidence that we have had for at least 15 years – that certain breeds of dogs, and possibly particular lines within breeds, exhibit a high prevalence of taurine-deficiency DCM. Genetically predisposed breeds include the American Cocker Spaniel, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Saint Bernard, Newfoundland and English Setter (5,6). Although the exact underlying cause is not known, it appears that some breeds have either a naturally occurring higher requirement for taurine or a metabolic abnormality that affects their taurine synthesis or utilization.

    Size: A second factor that affects taurine status in dogs is size. There is evidence that a large adult size and a relatively slow metabolic rate influences the rate of taurine production in the body and may subsequently lead to a dietary taurine requirement. It is theorized that increased body size in dogs is associated with an enhanced risk for developing taurine deficiency and that this risk may be exacerbated by a breed-specific genetic predisposition. For example, when compared metabolically, Newfoundlands have a significantly lower rate of taurine synthesis than Beagles (7).

    There is additional evidence that large and giant breed dogs have lower rates of taurine production compared with small dogs. Ultimately, studies suggest that certain dogs possess a genetic predisposition to taurine depletion and increased susceptibility to taurine-deficiency DCM and that this susceptibility may be related to the combined factors of breed, size and metabolic rate.

    What is the Role of Diet? The recent spate of cases and media attention to taurine-deficiency DCM in dogs suggests that this is a very new problem in dogs. However, it is not new. A connection between diet and DCM in dogs was first described in a paper published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association in 2001 (8). What is new is the sudden focus on certain pet food ingredients and the target that appears to have been placed upon the backs of all “grain-free” pet food brands by some bloggers and veterinarians. Not to put too fine a point on this, but the 12 cases of taurine-deficiency DCM described in the 2001 paper were collected between 1997 and 2001, years before grain-free dog foods had arrived on the pet food scene. Rather than disparage one class or type of dog food (or pet food company), it is more important to look at specific dietary factors that may be involved in DCM in dogs.

    Generally speaking, these are expected to be the same as those identified for cats, including low protein levels, poorly processed or heat-damaged proteins (leading to Maillard products), and the inclusion of a high proportion of plant-based protein sources such as peas and legumes.

    Over the past 15 years, reduced taurine status in dogs has also been alternately associated with feeding lamb meal and rice diets, soybean-based diets, rice bran, beet pulp, and high fiber diets (9,10,11). As with cats, there appear to be multiple dietary (and genetic) factors involved. For example, it was theorized that the perceived (not proven) association between lamb meal and taurine status was due to low levels of available amino acids present in the lamb meal, or to excessive heat damage of the protein, or to the confounding factor of the inclusion of rice bran in many lamb meal-containing foods. To date, none of these factors have been conclusively proven or disproven. Although, the most recent study showed that three types of fiber source – rice bran, cellulose, and beet pulp – all caused reduced plasma taurine levels in dogs when included in a marginally low protein diet, with beet pulp causing the most pronounced decrease (11).

    Complicated? You bet. This is why it is important to avoid making unsupported claims about certain foods and brands. Taurine-deficiency DCM has been around for a while in dogs and continues to need study before making definitive conclusions about one or more specific dietary causes.

    What DO we know? We know that any dietary factor that reduces the availability of taurine precursors, binds taurine bile salts in the intestine, or causes an increase in the bacteria populations that degrade taurine can reduce a dog’s ability to synthesize taurine or will increase taurine degradation and/or loss in the feces. These changes could ultimately compromise a dog’s taurine status (especially if the dog was genetically predisposed) and affect heart health. In extreme cases, as we are seeing, this can lead to taurine-deficiency DCM (see diagram below).


    FDA Report: The FDA report identified foods that contain high amounts of peas, lentils, legume seeds, or potatoes to be of potential concern. The FDA also stated that the underlying cause of DCM in the reported cases is not known and that at this time, the diet-DCM relationship is only correlative (not causative). However, this has not stopped various bloggers and even some veterinarians from targeting small pet food companies and/or grain-free brands of food, and implying that these foods, and these foods alone, are causing taurine-deficiency DCM in dogs. Their reasoning is that peas and legumes are present in high amounts in foods that are formulated and marketed as grain-free. However, the truth is that many companies and brands of food include these ingredients. More importantly, there is no clear evidence showing that a particular dog food type, brand, or even ingredient is solely responsible for taurine-deficiency DCM in dogs.

    Rather, it is more reasonable and responsible to speculate that one or more of these ingredients, their interactions, or the effects of ingredient quality, heat treatment, and food processing may play a role. Furthermore, the underlying cause could be the protein, starch, or fiber fractions of these ingredients. As plant-source proteins, peas and lentils and legumes include varying amounts of starch (both digestible and resistant forms) and dietary fiber. These protein sources are also generally less nutritionally complete and less digestible than are high quality animal source proteins – additional factors that could influence a dog’s ability to both produce and use taurine. Potatoes, on the other hand, provide a digestible source of starch in an extruded food but also contain varying levels of resistant starch, which is not digested and behaves much like dietary fiber in the intestinal tract.

    The Heart of the Matter: Because any or all of these dietary factors could be risk factors for taurine-deficiency DCM in dogs and because peas, legumes, and other ingredients identified by the FDA report have not yet been fully studied, the heart of the matter is that no conclusions can yet be made about the underlying dietary cause or causes of taurine-deficiency DCM in dogs. Given what we do know, a recommendation is to feed a food that contains sufficient levels high quality, animal-source protein, does not include plant-source proteins as its primary protein source, and does not contain high levels of dietary fiber. If you are worried about your dog’s taurine status or heart health, see your veterinarian for a complete physical examination and if needed, to measure plasma levels of taurine.

    Cited Studies:

    1. Pion PD, Kittleson MD, Rogers QR, et al. Myocardial failure in cats associated with low plasma taurine: A reversible cardiomyopathy. Science 1987; 237:764-768.
    2. Earl KE, Smith PM. The effect of dietary taurine content on the plasma taurine concentration of the cat. British Journal of Nutrition 1991; 66:227-235.
    3. Hickman MA, Morris JG, Rogers QR. Effect of processing on the fate of dietary taurine in cats. Journal of Nutrition 1990; 120:995-1000.
    4. Hickman HA, Morris JG, Rogers QR. Intestinal taurine and the enterohepatic circulation of taurocholic acid in the cat. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology 1992; 315:45-54.
    5. Freeman LM, Rush JE, Brown DJ, et al. Relationship between circulating and dietary taurine concentrations in dogs with dilated cardiomyopathy. Veterinary Therapeutics 2001; 370-378.
    6. Backus RC, Ko KS, Fascetti AJ. Low plasma taurine concentration in Newfoundland dogs is associated with low plasma methionine and cysteine concentrations and low taurine synthesis. Journal of Nutrition 2006; 136:2525-2533.
    7. Ko KS, Backus RC, Berg JR, et al. Differences in taurine synthesis rate among dogs relate to differences in their maintenance energy requirement. Journal of Nutrition 2007; 137:1171-1175.
    8. Fascetti AJ, Reed JR, Roger QR, et al. Taurine deficiency in dogs with dilated cardiomyopathy: 12 cases (1997 – 2001). Journal of the American Animal Veterinary Association 2001; 223:1137-1141.
    9. Delaney SJ, Kass PH, Rogers QR, Fascetti AJ. Plasma and whole blood taurine in normal dogs of varying size fed commercially prepared food. Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition 2003; 87:235-244.
    10. Torres CL, Backus RC, Fascetti AJ, et al. Taurine status in normal dogs fed a commercial diet associated with taurine deficiency and dilated cardiomyopathy. Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition 2003; 87:359-372.
    11. Ko KS, Fascetti AJ. Dietary beet pulp decreases taurine status in dogs fed low protein diet. Journal of Animal Science and Technology 2016; 58:29-39.
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  16. MyBuddy

    MyBuddy Moderator Hot Topics Subscriber

    It's all so mind-boggling! Can anyone remember when they used to just go to the store and get their dog food? Now you have to be a scientist. Someone asked me once, what's wrong with Old Roy dog food from Walmart? I didn't know where to begin! Even my husband looks at the Maze of dog food at the store and questions why there are so many and how do you know which one to pick? :scratch:
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  17. Oh Little Oji

    Oh Little Oji Formerly Tad Hot Topics Subscriber $ Forum Donor $

    So many kinds of dog food – I agree. Seems to me it's about money. I was wondering the other day if those breed-specific dog foods were still around. That trend struck me as pretty laughable.
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  18. MyBuddy

    MyBuddy Moderator Hot Topics Subscriber

    True. Isn't everything!? :sour:
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  19. LifeofRubie

    LifeofRubie Active Member

    People have discovered they can make a lot of money by putting kibble in bag with pretty colors on it!

    Just like food marketed to Humans, pretty packaging, promising claims, and 'trendy' movements (grain-free! breed specific!) sell dog food.

    I actually think Rubie's coat has been looking better since moving to the non-grain free food *shrugs*
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  20. Kaiser2016

    Kaiser2016 Active Member

    What I don't get is "dogs with lower metabolic rates". Dobermans should have a high metabolism no? Like people who work out have a high metabolism. I think of Dobermans to be like the athletes of the dog world.
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