In July 2018 the FDA alerted pet owners and vets about dogs eating certain pet food and getting diagnosed with a heart disease called Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). The concern was with foods that were grain free but also ones with exotic ingredients and boutique diets.

The science

The issue is being researched to find out why this is happening. We still do not know all the details. Discussion centres around legumes like peas being added in grain free food potentially blocking absorption of a protein called Taurine. There is also a discussion surrounding the manufacturing process and this seems to be a nutritional deficiency issue, not a toxin. Not every dog eating an at risk food will be affected. In fact there are many dogs eating at risk foods that are doing great.

We do know that dogs with nutritional DCM are reversing their heart changes with a change of diet and medications. The cases that really triggered the investigation is groups of dogs, all eating the same foods, all getting diagnosed with heart disease.

What can you do if you are feeding an at-risk food?

For healthy adult dog, that do not have other medical issues, we recommend a slow gradual switch to a grain inclusive food from brands that follow the World Small Animal Veterinary Association Global Nutrition Committee Guidelines (WSAVA). The brands included in the WSAVA guidelines have also not yet been implicated in causing nutritional DCM in the FDA case reports. Those brands include: RoyalCanin, Purina, Hills, Iams and Eukanuba.

At Happy Paws we would love to give you a tailored plan based on your pet as an individual.


Tests for Nutritional DCM include:

  • Physical Exam
  • Echocardiogram – Ultrasonic assessment of the heart.
  • Taurine levels – Taurine blood levels can be tested at the lab
  • Blood tests including routine and heart specific (Pro-BNP)
  • Chest Radiographs

Where can I get more information?

Happy Paws Vets: New information is coming out frequently, call us to get more information at 403-299-0336

Resources and Links

FDA reports:

2019 FDA release

Facebook group, reading the units is recommended to get a full understanding of the issue: Search for the group called Taurine-Deficient (Nutritional) Dilated Cardiomyopathy

WSVA guidelines
Evaluating a pet food ingredient list
How Americans Decided Dogs Can’t Eat Grains
A broken heart: Risk of heart disease in boutique or grain-free diets and exotic ingredients