The FDA provided pet owners with a wealth of information, but no cause for hundreds (if not thousands) of diet related heart disease in pets.
Issued February 19, 2019 – FDA provides pet owners with a lot of data regarding their current investigation of diet-related dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs (and cats). Unfortunately, FDA provides pet owners with no cause for the many illnesses and deaths.
Right at the beginning of the update, the agency admits no work was done on this concerning investigation during the government shutdown…
“This update does not include reports received in December and January due to the lapse in appropriations from December 22, 2018, to January 25, 2019. Because the Anti-Deficiency Act does not except activities that are solely related to protecting “animal health,” FDA was not able to continue its investigation during that time.”
The FDA update informed pet owners the agency has collaborated “with a variety of components of the animal health sector to collect and evaluate information about the DCM cases and the diets pets ate prior to becoming ill.” However the FDA update was less than transparent with pet owners on how much they have collaborated with pet food manufacturers in their investigation.
This FDA update told pet owners that FDA is “Examining ingredient sourcing/processing and product formulation with pet food manufacturers.” Actually, the agency has done far more than that. The pet food publication PetFoodIndustry.com states “David Edwards, Ph.D., an officer with FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM)’s Office of Surveillance and Compliance, presented an update on the agency’s DCM investigation during the American Feed Industry Association’s 12th Annual Pet Food Conference, held February 12 in conjunction with the International Production and Processing Expo in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.”
FDA has never provided the same opportunity for pet owners to hear an in-person update on their investigation into DCM issues as they have provided industry.
The FDA states they have received “300 reports of DCM (294 canine reports, 6 feline reports)” from January 1, 2014, to November 30, 2018; the greatest majority of the FDA illness reports – “276 of these (273 canine, 3 feline)” have been received since FDA first announced their investigation in July 2018. All of these numbers are confirmed cases of DCM diagnosis, FDA did not include “many general cardiac reports submitted.”
On a follow up page of the February 2019 FDA update, the agency provided more information on the DCM Investigation Webpage. That page provided more information on FDA’s investigation.
“In cases in which dogs ate a single primary diet (i.e., didn’t eat multiple food products, excluding treats), 90 percent reported feeding a grain-free food. Approximately 10 percent reported feeding a food containing grains and some of these diets were vegan or vegetarian. A large proportion of the reported diets in DCM cases – both grain-free and grain-containing – contained peas and/or lentils in various forms (whole, flour, protein, etc.) as a main ingredient (listed within the first 10 ingredients, before vitamins and minerals). The products included commercially available kibble, canned and raw foods, as well as home-cooked diets.”
FDA shares the reports they have received involve a “wide range” of dog breeds.
The types of pet foods FDA has received reports on:
FDA testing of various pet foods has not yet revealed a cause.
“Because some products labelled “grain free” and containing legumes and/or potato products were potentially associated with DCM, Vet-LIRN collected case-related food samples and purchased store-bought products labelled “grain free”. These products were tested, as well as grain-containing products not associated with development of DCM, to investigate any nutritional differences that could explain the development of DCM. As of November 30, 2018, Vet-LIRN has tested grain-free products and grain-containing products for the following:
- protein, fat, moisture
- crude fiber, total dietary fiber, soluble fiber, insoluble fiber
- total starch, resistant starch
- cystine, methionine, and taurine
The average percent protein, fat, total taurine, total cystine, total methionine, total methionine-cystine, and resistant starch content on a dry matter basis were similar for both grain-free and grain-containing products (Table 1).”
FDA results of testing are provided below. Though it confuses the issue of cause, almost all pet foods tested within normal (per regulation) ranges.
And further complicating consumer worry, FDA has collected data that shows not all dogs diagnosed with diet-related DCM heart disease have low taurine blood levels.
FDA tells pet owners: “If a dog is showing possible signs of DCM or other heart conditions, including decreased energy, cough, difficulty breathing and episodes of collapse, you should contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. If the symptoms are severe and your veterinarian is not available, you may need to seek emergency veterinary care. Your veterinarian may ask you for a thorough dietary history, including all the foods (including treats) the dog has eaten.” FDA encourages pet owners to report illnesses to the agency – “Detailed instructions for submitting case information can be found on “How to Report a Pet Food Complaint.”
Unfortunately, we must wait to learn the cause. Pet owners need to be extra alert to any symptoms of heart disease seen in their pet.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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