Grain free dog food has become hugely popular lately. It has been marketed as a healthier alternative to conventional dog foods (which are often top heavy in grains such as rice) as well as an easier alternative to raw feeding.
The FDA is currently investigating an unexpected link between grain free dog food and a canine heart disease called canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). This link was suspected when breeds not genetically prone to this problem started to develop DCM. On investigation, two things were discovered:
- Many of them were eating grain free dog food.
- Blood tests showed low Taurine levels.
What is DCM?
Some breeds (especially large and giant breeds such as Great Danes, boxers and Newfoundlands) are prone to developing DCM. The heart becomes enlarged and can’t pump properly. Valves start leaking fluid into the chest and abdomen. Eventually, congestive heart failure occurs. This is genetic and unrelated to Taurine levels and diet.
But when breeds such as Labradors, mixed breeds and whippets also started to develop the condition, a red flag was raised.
What is Taurine?
Taurine is an amino acid. It is essential in cats (must be provided in the diet because they cannot synthesise it), but not essential in dogs (they can manufacture their own Taurine in the pancreas). But this investigation and previous studies suggest that sometimes they don’t manufacture enough.
And a deficiency of Taurine is known to produce DCM. And it looks like Taurine is deficient in grain free dog food that lists potatoes or legumes as their first ingredient.
Symptoms to watch out for, especially if you are feeding a grain free dog food or some kind of homemade diet:
- low energy
- difficulty breathing
Prevention and Cure
The good news is, if the condition is not a genetic one, and if it is caught early, it can be improved by the simple addition of Taurine to the diet.
If your dog has developed the condition already, your vet will, amongst other treatments, probably prescribe a corrective dose of 500mg to 1g Taurine per day.
As a preventative measure, supplementing 100 to 200 mg of Taurine daily should be sufficient.(Our Everypet Formula contains 150mg/5g.)
Taurine is a safe substance and at these levels, no side effects or interactions should occur.