Last year, the FDA began investigating a potential link between some dog food—most labeled “grain-free”—and heart disease in dogs.
The Administration released the results of that report recently, and gave with it a warning about 16 brands of dog food. Those brands are largely higher-end, more expensive dog foods.
Following reports about an increase in a certain kind of heart disease called canine dilated cardiomyopathy (abbreviated as DCM, semi-confusingly), the FDA started looking into possible causes. There were only a handful of DCM reports in 2017, but in 2018 and 2019, hundreds started pouring in.
DCM is usually a hereditary disease, with certain breeds more susceptible than others. Purebred golden retrievers and labrador retrievers, for example, have a high risk of developing DCM; in general, larger dogs are more at risk than smaller dogs. The disease can be very serious, sometimes resulting in heart failure.
The FDA’s list of affected brands include major national brands like Blue Buffalo, Merrick, and Rachael Ray Nourish. (You can see the full list here.) Those brands affected dogs even after controlling for the increased risk in certain breeds, meaning that there’s a link between this dog food and DCM.
There has been a trend in the past decade or so to feed dogs (and cats) grain-free food, believing that grain-free food is a closer analogue to what wild dogs may eat. Veterinarians, though, don’t believe that grain-free food is necessarily healthier for dogs than brands which include corn or wheat. One even told the New York Times that grain-free is a “popular myth.”
The FDA is careful to note that its findings are preliminary and not wholly conclusive; there is more research to be done before the link between this food and DCM is fully understood. If you’ve got a dog, you’ll want to keep a careful eye on news from this front.