Pet Food - The DCM Controversy


Pet Food - The DCM Controversy

If you take an interest in things dog related, you’re probably aware of the DCM controversy that began this past summer, and if you’re not, I hope this blog entry motivates you to do your own research on the subject.

July 2018 | U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issues an alert to pet owners and veterinary professionals that a number of dogs (specifically Golden Retrievers) have been diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a potentially deadly disease that enlarges a dog’s heart. Prior DCM cases, usually involved specific dog breeds that were genetically prone to the disease. What made these recent cases of interest, was the fact that the Golden Retriever in the past, was not normally susceptible to DCM. 

Within the FDA alert, it made mention that one common denominator in the reported cases was the feeding habits of these dogs, which was classified as being that of a “grain-free” diet. If you’re familiar with the pet food industry, you’ll know that traditional dog foods - classified as a grain diet - contains grains of wheat, corn, rice, oats, barley, etc., as part of their primary ingredients list for protein, whereas the grain-free diet substitutes plant based materials such as peas, lentils, and other types of legumes for a portion of their main ingredients.  

To make a long story short, canine DCM has been linked to breed genetics and/or deficiencies of ‘taurine’ (an amino acid) found within a dog’s body that is essential for good vision, proper digestion, and normal heart functions. A lack of taurine can mean death for a dog. Before you start worrying, a dog’s system has the ability to produce the proper levels of taurine for harmonious heath. Which is not the same for a cat, which requires taurine supplements mixed into their food (done by cat food manufacturers), since the feline body doesn’t make this specific amino acid.  

So, what does grain-free versus grain diets have to do with all this? 

Well, and this is a big well at this point because it’s unknown, but it’s theorized, that the grain-free ingredients of peas, lentils and those other legumes could be hindering a dog’s system to produce the proper amount of taurine levels. Now again, I caution jumping to conclusions, since it hasn’t been proven, and there are benefits of a grain-free diet.

For one, grains are fattening, those grains (particularly wheat and corn) are commonly used - especially in cheap dog food - as filler materials without very much protein benefit. Secondly, these grains can be of the genetically modified variety, or GMO type, which can cause another set of problems. This is why you see grocery food products with a label stating, “this product does not contain GMO”. I’ve never been in favor of ingesting chemically modified foods into my system, let alone for my dog. And thirdly, cocker spaniels are a breed that should stay away from wheat and corn for good health of their ears and skin.

What’s the answer at this point in the DCM controversy? 

Since, nothing has been proven on the grain-free versus grain issue, a word of caution is in order. Some might jump immediately to a grain filled diet, and in fact my own veterinarian is suggesting that Chloe, who is fed a grain-free food, be switched over to one containing grains. 

The pet foods my vet is recommending however, are those that I’ve never had much faith in. These are the large pet food producers such as Purina, and Science Diet, especially after reading their inferior ingredients, and where those ingredients are sometimes sourced from - China - and from my own research these manufacturers have had multiple pet food recalls. 

I’ll also say this, that based upon my research of the DCM subject, some things are not quite adding up in the FDA alert. Not to mention public comments coming from some well-known vets on the subject such as, 
“There’s no need for consumers to read the labels on pet foods.”
What ...?

I am moving Chloe to a grain based food, but it’s more as a response to my preference of rotating her food source, in lieu of having her on one brand her whole life. It’s advice that I’ve heard over and over again. It will also come at the result of doing it with what pet food I believe is best for the cocker spaniel breed. That will mean one that does not contain wheat or corn and no GMO, but substitutes other non-GMO grains such as oatmeal, and barley. It will also mean a pet food that comes from a manufacturer that can assuredly tell me where their ingredients are sourced from, with none coming from China. 

Have an opinion? Let me know what you think. 

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