FDA Studies Grain Free Pet Foods

Zoe and Jet are fed grain free pet foods being studied by the FDA.

I want to preface this post by saying I am NOT a veterinary nutritionist, nor am I a veterinarian. I am not an expert. I want to put this information out there so that pet owners know what is going on and can do their own research and come to their own conclusions.

So here’s what I know:

Back in July, the FDA issued a statement. The FDA’s statement warned that grain free foods containing legumes and potatoes in the first five ingredients MAY be contributing to a condition called “Taurine Deficient Dilated Cardiomyopathy” in dogs that are being fed so-called “boutique diets.”

I talked to my vet. The advice I received was to look for a food without legumes or potatoes (white AND sweet) in the first five ingredients in the list. I am also to look for a company that has a veterinary nutritionist on staff.

So far, I have narrowed this list down to a few companies: Purina, Royal Canin, First Mate, and Petcurean that have a veterinary nutritionist on staff. I’m sure more will present themselves as I continue to do research. For those of you who are out there looking for this information, many pet food companies do not have a veterinary nutritionist on staff, they merely consult with one as they are developing their formula. If you are curious about your own pet food, you should email or call the manufacturer. They can answer your questions about their products.

So… why is all of this happening?

Well, as to that, Dr. Karen Becker has a great video that explains the current operating theory. This is by no means proven. The FDA’s study on this is currently in progress.

I’ve had some people ask me how we know that there is a link between grain free foods and taurine deficient DCM. Well, the answer to the question is complicated, but this is loosely how this process worked:

The FDA got a bunch of reports that dogs were getting sick that are not normally breeds that come down with Dilated Cardiomyopathy. The veterinary cardiologists that were treating these dogs immediately suspected taurine deficiency because a similar series of cases was discovered in cats in the 1980s and the cause of DCM in cats at that time, was determined to be due to a lack of taurine in their diets. So, they began testing these dogs for taurine and that testing confirmed that that these dogs had low taurine levels.

The next step was to ask questions of the owners and the veterinarians discovered that every single patient on their radar that was not genetically predisposed to this disease, was also on a grain free diet. They also noticed that the sick dogs got better when their diets were switched away from products that were heavy in legumes and potatoes. They reported their findings to the FDA and the FDA launched an investigation and began doing studies on the impact of taurine in dogs and how dogs’ bodies’ metabolize taurine.

To make a long story short, it is not known if these grain free foods are actually responsible for this. My vet advised me to switch, but only because the food I am feeding is the one most commonly reported as causing problems with Labrador Retrievers in the FDA reports.

Should you switch?

I can’t answer that. That decision rests with you. Do the homework though and see what you think about all of this and if you find something different than what I’ve found, let me know on Twitter.