A new paper gives pet owners clues into the current investigation of heart disease in dogs linked to pet food.
“Diet-associated dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs: what do we know?” was recently published on Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association website. The paper gives pet owners clues to what veterinarians are looking at investigating heart disease issues linked to pet food.
Quotes from the paper:
“Diet-associated DCM first came to light in cats in the late 1980s and in dogs in the mid-1990s. The association between diet and DCM in dogs has generally not been much in the news since the early 2000s, but over the past few years, an increasing number of DCM cases involving dogs appear to have been related to diet. The extent of this issue is not clear, not all cases have been confirmed to be linked to diet, and a true association has not been proven to exist.”
“The recent announcement from the US FDA alerting pet owners and veterinarians about reports of DCM in dogs eating pet foods containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes as main ingredients has raised concerns among the pet-owning public. Therefore, we wanted to increase awareness of this issue among veterinarians, review what is currently known about the possible association between certain diets and DCM in dogs, and discuss what veterinarians can do to help identify underlying causes.“
“Recently, however, we have heard from veterinary cardiologists who had an impression that they were diagnosing DCM in Golden Retrievers at higher rates than expected and in dogs of breeds typically not thought to be prone to this condition. Subjectively, it also appeared that these dogs were frequently eating BEG (BEG stands for Boutique companies, Exotic ingredients, Grain-free) diets containing foodstuffs such as kangaroo, duck, buffalo, salmon, lamb, bison, venison, lentils, peas, fava beans, tapioca, barley, or chickpeas as major ingredients. Some of the affected dogs had low plasma or whole blood taurine concentrations and improved with taurine supplementation and a diet change. On the other hand, some dogs that did not have low plasma or whole blood taurine concentrations also improved with a diet change and taurine supplementation. Cardiologists and other veterinarians have been reporting cases to the US FDA, which is investigating the issue.”
Part of the difficulty for scientists and FDA investigation into the cause of pet food related heart disease in dogs is that some dogs had low taurine blood levels, while others showed normal taurine blood levels. To add further challenges to the investigation: “not all diets were grain-free diets“.
The paper explains the difficulty of reaching the ‘Complete and Balanced’ claim stated on pet food labels for pet food manufacturers…
“The complexity of pet food manufacturing is often underestimated. Pet foods must contain all required nutrients in the right amounts and right proportions. Nutrient standards (minimums and, for some nutrients, maximums) are established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials. However, the effects of processing (or not processing) the ingredients must also be considered, along with nutrient bioavailability and the effects of all other ingredients in the food. Unfortunately, this may not always be done. In addition, extensive testing is needed on an ongoing basis to ensure rigorous quality control. Inclusion of exotic ingredients, such as kangaroo, alligator, fava beans, and lentils, adds another level of complexity to ensuring the diet is nutritious and healthy. Exotic ingredients have different nutritional profiles and different digestibility than typical ingredients and have the potential to affect the metabolism of other nutrients. For example, the bioavailability of taurine is different when included in a lamb-based diet, compared with a chicken-based diet, and can be affected by the amount and types of fiber in the diet.“
The above emphasizes a concern for pet owners. AAFCO establishes the nutrient profiles pet food manufacturers are required to meet, AAFCO defines all pet food ingredients including those “exotic ingredients” mentioned in this paper.
But, AAFCO definitions do NOT take into account the bioavailability of those ingredients. This brings back into discussion the needed pet food ingredient standards that were just deleted by a Congressional Committee (deletion of these necessary pet food regulations was submitted by Senator Rand Paul). If pet food was required to have ingredient standards, the
bioavailability of each pet food ingredient could have been required.
And the nutritional profiles mentioned in the above quote are established by AAFCO. AAFCO nutritional standards are the most absolute minimum, and they take no consideration of bioavailability of those nutrients.
More quotes from the paper:
“Possible causes that are being investigated include absolute deficiencies of other nutrients, altered bioavailability of certain nutrients because of nutrient-nutrient interactions, and the inadvertent inclusion of toxic ingredients.“
And perhaps the most concerning statement (bold added)…
“Researchers are also exploring whether diet-associated DCM in dogs without taurine deficiency may be related to inclusion of a cardiotoxic ingredient in the diet. This could be an adulterated ingredient, as with ingredients containing melamine–cyanuric acid that affected pet foods in 2007, resulting in extensive recalls; a heavy metal; a chemical sprayed on 1 of the ingredients; or even a natural chemical compound in 1 of the ingredients that has toxic effects when fed in large amounts.“
How long will it take scientists or regulatory authorities to locate the ‘adulterated ingredient’?
How long will it take to make a connection of a heavy metal link to canine heart disease?
How long will it take to make a connection of a ‘chemical’ or ‘natural compound’ to canine heart disease?
Why hasn’t FDA updated pet owners since mid- July about this information?
No answers to too many questions for pet owners.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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