The Veterinary Hospital of Melbourne report on FDA warnings on Grain-Free Diets

We have received many calls and emails about the recent FDA report on grain-free diets in dogs and cats. It is important to understand that the FDA called this is a “complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors and that the actual cause has still yet to be determined”. They are also looking at a very small group of dogs and cats where there is a concern that diet could be a factor in these pets developing DCM (dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition where the heart muscle weakens).

There are 77 million pet dogs in the United States, and this study evaluated only 560 dogs and cats, a mere 0.000007% of the population. That means that 99.999993% of dogs have had no issue with heart disease on these commercial diets. Of course, we believe in being proactive, and we do not want our patients to be in that very small percentage of dogs who may have an issue with these foods, So far, we haven’t seen any heart conditions in our hospital that we think are linked to diet. For those pet parents worried, we have been able to ultrasound their dog’s heart and confirm it still is working normally.

We can tell you that most of the foods implicated in this problem seem to be pea or lentil-based diets, and all are processed kibble. We don’t know if these diets are lacking an important ingredient or if there is some sort of toxin associated with one of these ingredients. It may be months before we have more details and reliable information. The truth is there have been many issues with processed diets in the news over the years. New recalls come out every week, and it makes it very difficult to know what brands to trust for your pet. It’s confusing, and we share with you your concerns and frustrations.

It’s important to note that we haven’t heard of any problems with freeze-dried food, canned food, or refrigerated food thus far, and most of you already know we prefer these less processed foods anyway for overall better health, reduction of inflammation, improved digestion, and prevention of cancer growths. Our take on diet has always been to avoid processed kibble if possible and replace as much of it with healthier options. We also believe in trying to switch up brands of food, so you are not relying on one food source or putting all your trust in one brand or formula. Variety is good for our pets just like it is good for us.

We still trust the brands of food that we carry here: Evangers, Wellness, Nature’s Variety Instinct, Natural Balance, and Grandma Lucy’s. We suggest you try to decrease the amount of kibble you feed and substitute the kibble with canned, freeze-dried, or real food. The bigger the variety of foods and brands you feed your pet, the less likely any ONE of them will cause a problem in your dog or cat. Until more research is presented to us, avoid a primary pea or lentil-based diet. Continue feeding high protein, low carb diets for prevention of the most prominent pet health problems.

We will stay up to date on this information and try to keep you informed!

Dr. Carrie Uehlein and Dr. Nicole Sheehan