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Worried About Going Grain-Free? FDA Finds No Causal Link Between Grain-Free Food and DCM

If one reason you’ve been hesitant to switch to a raw diet is the potential link between grain-free diets and non-hereditary dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), you’ll be happy to know that the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stated it found no proof that grain-free diets increased a dog’s likelihood of developing DCM.

In fact, they concluded that: “Most of the diets associated with the reports of non-hereditary DCM have legume seed ingredients, also called ‘pulses’ (e.g., peas, lentils, etc.), high in their ingredient lists…These include both ‘grain-free’ and grain-containing formulations.”

It turns out a lack of grains was never the problem. If any food element is causing increased incidences of DCM (and even that much hasn’t been proven), it’s the inclusion of species-inappropriate ingredients like peas and lentils in large proportions rather than the exclusion of grains.

Read on for more information.

What Is Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)?

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a heart condition where thinning muscle walls cause an enlarged heart that doesn’t pump blood as efficiently.

In dogs, DCM is more common in certain dog breeds, like Boxers, Great Danes, Cocker Spaniels, Irish Wolfhounds, German Shepherds, Saint Bernards, English Springer Spaniels, Doberman Pinschers, and Portuguese Water Dogs.

However, there is a non-hereditary version of DCM that appears to be caused by a confluence of multiple factors including, potentially, diet.

Why Was the FDA Investigating a Possible Link Between DCM and Grain-Free Diets?

Vets seemed to be noticing more cases of non-hereditary DCM and thought there could be a link to grain-free diets.

There is no public health agency that tracks animal health in the same way that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks human health. So, the FDA  (which has regulatory authority over pet food) called on the academic and veterinary communities to contribute research on various aspects of non-hereditary DCM to determine whether there could be a link to a certain type of food.

After receiving and studying 1,382 reports of DCM in dogs between January 1, 2014, and November 1, 2022, the FDA concluded that there was not enough evidence to prove that grain-free diets—or any other type of dog food—contribute to non-hereditary DCM.

In fact, one study showed that grain-free diet sales increased from 2011 to 2019, but there was no significant change in the percentage of dogs diagnosed with DCM from 2000 to 2019. If grain-free diets were a contributing factor to DCM, one would expect to see an increase in the incidence of DCM proportionate to the increase in sales of grain-free foods.

Why Is the FDA Ending DCM Updates?

“FDA does not intend to release further public updates until there is meaningful new scientific information to share,” the agency announced in a press release on Dec. 23, because the adverse event numbers “do not supply sufficient data to establish a causal relationship with reported product(s). FDA continues to encourage research and collaboration by academia, veterinarians, and industry.”

Do Dogs Need Grains?

There is no evidence to suggest that dogs need grains of any kind in their diet. Dogs can thrive on a meat-based diet just like their not-so-distant ancestors (wolves) can.

Is We Feed Raw Complete and Balanced?

Yes! We Feed Raw recipes exceed AAFCO nutrition requirements for dogs of all life stages, including large breed puppies. Our patties contain approximately 80% muscle meat (and associated connective tissue and fat), 10% secreting organs, 10% finely ground bone, and added vitamins and minerals for a complete and balanced diet that can be fed as-is.

Take the quiz now to see how much it would cost to introduce We Feed Raw to your dog’s diet.

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