PA Vet Group Says Grain-Free Dog Food Hysteria Unwarranted

Reading Eagle

by Susan Miers Smith

A June 27 FDA report showed a correlation between a grain-free diet and the development of a heart condition in dogs, but does not show the food caused the cardiomyopathy.
The Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association released a statement Friday saying the hysteria in the dog-loving community about grain-free diets may be unfounded.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration issued a report June 27 that showed a correlation between dogs who developed dilated cardiomyopathy, or DCM, and were fed a grain-free diet.

The FDA has been investigating the association between DCM and diet since July 2018.
"First off, there is a saying that 'correlation does not equal causation' and that is what we have here," said Dr. Bryan R. Langlois, president of the PVMA, in the prepared statement. "After first seeing an increase in cases of a specific type of heart condition in dogs, called dilated cardiomyopathy, where the heart muscle thins and weakens causing a difficulty in normal pumping ability, some cardiologists were noticing a lot of these dogs were being fed what are known as 'boutique' or 'grain-free diets' by their owners.

"The FDA is not specifically stating that these diets cause these conditions in the dogs. They have just noted a correlation between the two. They have not issued any recalls for these foods. They are simply asking veterinarians to further study the issue."

In the June 27 report, the FDA stated "Based on the data collected and analyzed thus far, the agency believes that the potential association between diet and DCM in dogs is a complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors."

Some breeds of dogs are predisposed genetically to developing DCM the FDA said: giant breeds, such as the Doberman Pinscher, Great Dane, or the Irish Wolfhound.

In 2018 the FDA received 320 reports of dogs and cats developing DCM. A total of 524 reports were received by the FDA between Jan. 1, 2014, and April 30, 2019.

The top 16 dog food brands eaten by those reporting cases of DCM to the FDA were: Acana, Zignature, Taste of the Wild, 4Health, Earthborn Holistic, Blue Buffalo, Nature's Domain, Fromm, Merrick, California Natural, Orijen, Nature's Variety, NutriSource, Nutro and Rachael Ray Nutrish.
The signs that a dog may have a heart condition are coughing, lethargy, tiring easily on walks, fainting or getting weak, loss of appetite and abdominal swelling according to Langois.

"Your relationship with your veterinarian is particularly important in these types of situations," said Christian D. Malesic, PVMA executive director, in the statement. "Rushing out to the pet store to find a replacement food for your dog may not be the best solution. In fact, you might just cause a problem that didn't previously exist. Consult with your veterinarian first."

Malesic was the executive officer of the Home Builders Association of Berks County from 2012 to 2015.