At the current time, we aren’t exactly sure what the connection is between grain-free diets and heart disease. Something is causing dilated cardiomyopathy, which is when the heart muscles expand and can’t work efficiently, and can lead to heart failure. It could be linked to a taurine deficiency, a particular amino acid that seems to be missing in some of the grain free diets. So far, if it’s noticed early enough, adding taurine or changing to a regular diet has been helping to correct the damage that has been done.
Our hospital recommends diets that are American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFC) certified. Most state feed laws and regulations reference to the AAFCO Official Publication as part of the nutritional adequacy labeling for pet foods. This reference is to an AAFCO-established, science-based, nutritional standard.
Unfortunately, the "grain-free" label is a marketing ploy designed by pet food companies to cash in on the current “keto” and “gluten-free” fads in human medicine. This concept was neither created nor regulated by veterinarians and the deficiencies in this type of diet for pets is just now coming to light.
High up on our list of recommended food brands are Royal Canin, all Hills brand foods, and Purina diets. These companies have veterinary nutritionists on staff and run feeding trials to ensure pets can live a healthy life on each formulation of their diets. Another option, instead of switching brands completely, is to continue feeding your current brand but choose one of their NON grain-free diets.
Our veterinarians are closely monitoring the situation and we will be sure to send critical updates to all of our clients via email. If you haven't given us your current email address, please call and have the receptionist put it into the oomputer so you'll receive the latest pet health updates as they are sent.
Dr. Jennifer Feeney is a veterinarian at Somerset Veterinary Group. She has worked for several veterinary hospitals in and around New Jersey, including a 24-hour emergency clinic and a large local animal shelter. Learn more about her here.