Potatoes or legumes such as peas, lentils, and other legume seeds were the main ingredients of the diets of affected dogs reported by the FDA. Diets labelled as ‘grain-free’ tend to contain high levels of potatoes and legumes, and this has led to numerous media publications reporting a ‘direct’ link between ‘grain-free’ foods and DCM.
However, it is not yet known how these ingredients are linked to these cases of DCM, and the time period for which these diets were the main source of nutrition is variable between affected individuals, ranging from months to years.
DCM typically affects large and giant breed dogs such as Great Danes, Boxers and Dobermans. Its exact cause is largely unknown but is suspected to have an underlying genetic component in these breeds.
This is why the atypical cases have raised concern, as breeds reported by the FDA include Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Miniature Schnauzers, a Shih Tzu and some mixed breeds. A deficiency in the amino acid taurine is well-documented as potentially leading to DCM. Of the dogs investigated by the FDA, four were found to have low blood taurine levels, while another four were found to have normal taurine levels.
Back home, the link between diet and a medical condition is currently a hot topic within the pet food and veterinary industry, with a recent report showing a possible link between diet and megaoesophagus in a number of Australian dogs.
Although the exact causative agents in these cases has yet to be determined, events such as these highlight the importance of the Pet Food Adverse Event System of Tracking (PetFAST) reporting system, which allows veterinarians to report health problems in dogs and cats that are suspected to be associated with pet foods, treats and meat.
By reporting this information, it allows the AVA and the Pet Food Industry Association of Australia (PFIAA) to identify recurring patterns and swiftly take appropriate actions. For more information, visit www.ava.com.au/petfast.
It is not yet known how [grain-free] ingredients are linked to these cases of DCM.