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The Scoop on Canine Nutrition

Featured Photo from The Scoop on Canine Nutrition

It is well-known that DCM in cats can be caused by dietary factors. Generally, we have not considered this to be an issue for dogs, at least not until recently.

Many of you may have heard that the Food and Drug Administration is investigating some grain-free dog foods for a possible link to a canine heart disease known as dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). It is well-known that DCM in cats can be caused by dietary factors. Generally, we have not considered this to be an issue for dogs, at least not until recently.  

Veterinary cardiologists have begun to see an increase in cases of DCM in dog breeds that did not commonly get the heart disease. These patients seemed to have something in common – most of them were eating grain-free, exotic, or boutique diets (also referred to as BEG diets). Other diets now linked to DCM include vegetarian, vegan, and home-prepared diets. The cause is likely multifactorial and may include genetic and breed components, dietary components and dietary processing, and quality control issues during manufacturing.   

Veterinary nutritionists have long since considered grain-free diets to be a fad spurred by a similar movement in human diets. The problem is that dogs and cats are not humans. Pets process medications and foods differently than people, and we cannot assume that a diet that works for people will work for companion animals. 

Nutrition is very complicated and there is no way to address all the concerns in one article, but it is important to understand the fundamentals while we let the experts further investigate the diets in question. Dogs have certain requirements for vitamins, minerals, amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), and macronutrients (fat, carbohydrates, and protein). Some amino acids can be made from others and some must be taken in through diet. Each animal has a different capacity to make amino acids and some are very important to the proper function of a dog’s body.  

Taurine is an amino acid that is required for the proper function of the heart and is at the center of the current controversy. Some diets made with nontraditional ingredients, or by companies that do not have a board-certified veterinary nutritionist to develop their diets, may lead to nutritional deficiencies that are not easily identified. We all want the best for our furry friends and this includes diet. 

Currently veterinary experts at the most respected institutes of veterinary higher learning are recommending diets that contain standard ingredients (chicken, beef, rice, corn, and wheat) and are manufactured by well-known companies that have strong quality control and boarded veterinary nutritionists to properly formulate diets.  

Consultation with your veterinarian is the best way to select an appropriate diet for your pet. There is a lot of misinformation on nutrition, and it’s important to seek advice from an expert. While pet stores may have the best intentions, most employees have not completed an education in veterinary medicine or animal nutrition. The internet is also a minefield of unverified information, so it is important to use only scientific-based websites for further information.

Dr. Nichole Crainick joined Lake Emma Animal Hospital in 2014 and has a special interest in canine and feline internal medicine, especially gastrointestinal and endocrine diseases and ultrasound. She has an Australian Shepherd named Lily (pictured here), and two cats, Sterling and Troy.

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