In 2019 the FDA looked into specifically grain free dog diets that were observed to be linked to the deadly heart disease, Dilated Cardiomyopathy, aka, DCM. DCM previously had been a very genetically linked disease unique to only a few mostly giant breeds of dogs, namely Doberman Pinschers, Great Danes, and occasionally German Shepherds. Cardiologists in the Baltimore area raised the alarm when they started seeing DCM cases seemingly linked to specific grain free diets and petitioned the FDA to look into the matter.
That list initially was populated with 16 specific diets, but a recent update from the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) working in conjunction with the FDA, according to an article in the Journal of the American Veterinary Association (JAVMA), FDA and AVMA have further expanded the list to now include not just specifically grain free diets, but what they term BEG diets.
BEG stands for Boutique style, Exotic proteins and other ingredients, and Grain free. Boutique style diets are generally niche diets, very small companies that generally do not follow mainstream quality control protocols, such as published feeding trials, AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials) certification, and staffing at least 1 veterinary clinical nutritionist. They commonly use terminology on their labels that realistically have no tangible meaning in the pet food industry, such as “all natural,” “holistic,” and “home made.” Exotic proteins and other ingredients refers to the raw diets and uncommonly used protein sources, such as quail, ostrich, rabbit, and kangaroo. The FDA also saw a particular spike in the incidence of DCM in boutique style diets with lentils, sweet potato, and peas.
The mechanism by which these diets cause DCM is not fully understood, but the FDA currently has observed that these diets seem to generally be deficient in B vitamins, cofactors that are integral to integration of taurine in cardiac muscle metabolism. Taurine is an amino acid that is essential to cardiac muscle function and the maintenance of cardiac muscle health. The best way to avoid these diets? Easy, ask your veterinarian. Contrary to common misinformation spread in grooming, breeder, and other non-medical pet industry circles, veterinarians are not only trained in veterinary nutrition, but also engage in ongoing nutritional continuing education.
Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms. He is the author of The Man In The White Coat: A Veterinarian’s Tail Of Love. In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a globally recognized expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport. He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , general partner of Grant Animal Clinic, and runs the successful veterinary/animal health blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care. Dr. Welton fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.