FDA names 16 dog food brands linked to canine heart disease

Sixteen dog food brands may be linked to an increased risk of heart failure in dogs, according to the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA isn’t yet suggesting pet owners stop feeding their dogs specific brands, but some veterinarians are already recommending against “grain-free” foods.

The FDA is currently investigating more than 500 reports that appear to link dog foods marketed as “grain-free” to canine dilated cardiomyopathy. FDA warns against foods based on peas, lentils or potatoes since July 2018, but the press release published at the end of last week is the first time that the agency has identified the 16 brands.

The brands are classified according to the number of cases linked to them, which varies from 67 to 10:

  • Acana
  • Zignature
  • Taste of nature
  • 4Health
  • Holistic born on Earth
  • Blue buffalo
  • Domain of Nature
  • Of me
  • Merrick
  • California Natural
  • Natural balance
  • Orijen
  • The variety of nature
  • NutriSource
  • Nutro
  • Rachael Ray Nutrish

Most reports were associated with dry dog ​​food formulations, but raw foods, semi-moist foods, and wet foods were included. The FDA has not suggested that owners change their pets’ diets.

“We’re not saying don’t use these brands, we’re just telling pet owners to work directly with their veterinarians because we’re still investigating,” said Lindsay Haake, an FDA spokesperson.

Although the vast majority of cases involve dogs, there have also been cases in cats.

Veterinary cardiologists told NBC News they are not waiting for the FDA investigation to conclude before advising owners to stop feeding the suspect pet foods.

“When a dog comes to us and we learn through their history that they are on a grain-free diet, we advise them to switch to a grain-free diet,” said Dr. Anna Gelzer, veterinary cardiologist and associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. “Grain-free foods have no scientifically proven benefits, so why take the chance? »

In a statement, the Pet Food Institute, whose members make 98 percent of pet foods and treats in the United States, said it and its members “brought together nutritionists, veterinarians and safety specialists products for more than a year to better understand if there is a relationship between dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and diet. PFI agrees with FDA’s statements that this is a complex issue with many factors requiring scientific evaluation.

If you think about wolves, they can ingest the contents of the ruminants that they feed on, so they are certainly capable of eating grain. There is no scientific reason to go without grains.

Heart failure is a known problem for large dog breeds, such as Great Danes and German Shepherds, Gelzer said. The breeds most commonly reported to the FDA for heart disease were golden retrievers, mixed breeds and Labrador retrievers..

But recently, the disease began showing up in smaller breeds, which caught the attention of veterinarians and ultimately the FDA.

“For us at Penn, we started seeing cases in late 2017 that seemed unusual because they involved smaller breeds such as springer spaniels and beagles that you don’t typically see with canine dilated cardiomyopathy,” Gelzer said.

Knowing that studies had shown that diet could play a role in the development of heart disease in dogs, “we began to investigate what each owner ate.”

Ultimately, Gelzer and others discovered there was a common denominator: grain-free dog foods, which replaced grains with substitutes such as lentils, peas and chickpeas.

Gelzer isn’t sure how the grain-free pet food trend started, but suspects it’s due to consumer demand for what seemed like a healthier alternative.

“It doesn’t come from the science side,” Gelzer said. “If you think about wolves, they can ingest the contents of the ruminants that they feed on, so they are certainly capable of eating grain. There is no scientific reason to go without grains.

Typically, when dogs develop a food allergy, it’s to a protein, Gelzer said. So, veterinarians often opt for a food containing a different protein source to treat the problem.

One of the big problems with DCM is that dogs don’t show symptoms of the disease — lethargy, exercise intolerance, shortness of breath — until they are very sick, Gelzer said.

She cites the example of clients who came in with a very sick dog who had been diagnosed with DCM. The family had a second dog who appeared healthy, but since both were eating a grain-free dog food, Gelzer suggested bringing the second dog in to be examined.

What we don’t know is whether (the foods) used in these diets instead of grains are causing the problem. It’s also possible that it’s some kind of toxin.

“When we evaluated this dog, his heart function was also diminished, but it was still subclinical,” she said. “The dog did not look abnormal as it was at an early stage.”

Gelzer isn’t sure of the results if these early-stage dogs are switched to a different food. “Some get better when the diet is changed,” she said. “Some stay the same and maintain the status quo on medications, while others die despite changing their diet and receiving all the heart medications we can give them.”

While it is clear that pet owners feed these brands because they are “trying to do what they perceive to be the right thing for their dogs, unless the dog has a documented grain sensitivity, this probably not worth taking the risk at this point to nurture these brands.” products,” said Dr. Bruce Kornreich, veterinary cardiologist in the Department of Clinical Sciences at the Cornell University Veterinary College and associate director of the Cornell Feline Health Center.

“What we don’t know is whether (the foods) used in these diets in place of grains are causing the problem,” Kornreich said. “It’s also possible that it’s some kind of toxin.”

Kornreich suggests pet owners switch to a brand “produced by a company with a long history.”

If a pet dog exhibits symptoms of heart disease, including decreased energy, coughing, or difficulty breathing, the FDA urges owners to contact a veterinarian as soon as possible.


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