Updated: Feb 14, 2022
Pet parents everywhere should be breathing at least a little easier since the #FDA issued an important update on June 27, 2019 regarding the problem of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in #dogs. The report elaborates on and clarifies what's behind the apparent spike in DCM cases and warns against blaming specific #petfood diets.
DCM is a very serious medical condition that is poorly understood and research into it is on-going. It's critical that pet parents learn the true causes of DCM so that we can recognize it take the correct action. So as your trusted pet food retailer, we've taken a close look at the current situation and tried to make sense of the FDA update for you.
Over Hyped News Reports
Initially, news reports hyped a link to specific brands of #dogfoods, and grain-free diets in general. But the FDA has said all along that DCM in dogs is a complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors -- only one of which may be diet:
“At this time, we are not advising dietary changes based solely on the information we have gathered so far . . . It’s important to note that the reports include dogs that have eaten grain-free and grain-containing foods and also include vegetarian or vegan formulations. They also include all forms of diets: kibble, canned, raw and home-cooked. Therefore, we do not think these cases can be explained simply by whether or not they contain grains, or by brand or manufacturer.”
The FDA also sited other possible culprits such as inherited predisposition and obesity. Taurine may also play a role in triggering the development of DCM. Or the spike could also be due to greater awareness resulting from the recent news reports.
By The Numbers
First of all, it's important to understand that the number of reported cases is still extremely small. Over a five year period, between January 1, 2014 and April 30, 2019, the FDA received 524 reports of DCM; this includes some 560 dogs and 14 #cats. Some 119 of this group died from DCM.
All but 7 of those reports came in 2019. The spike occurred suspiciously close behind a 2018 report by a single veterinary cardiology practice in the northeast concerning an unusual cluster of cases of DCM. The veterinarians reported that they had seen a number of dogs with DCM who were:
Not breeds known to be at a higher inherited risk of DCM, and
Most had been eating grain-free diets prior to diagnosis.
DCM is notably more common in certain breeds, mainly larger ones, including Golden and Labrador Retrievers. It's also more likely to develop in older dogs and dogs who are overweight than of ideal or low weight.
It's also true that Goldens and Labs are two of the most popular breeds in the U.S. Since there are more of them in the general pet population, it makes some sense that a higher proportion of cases would come from among those two breeds.
Did Social Media Play A Role?
But news reports and social media discussion may have skewed the numbers. Even the FDA has suggested that social media discussion about Golden Retrievers and their susceptibility to a taurine-responsive form of DCM may have caused owners to bring their pets in for DCM check up.
“Because the occurrence of different diseases in dogs and cats is not routinely tracked and there is no widespread surveillance system like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have for human health, we do not have a measure of the typical rate of occurrence of disease apart from what is reported to the FDA."
In other words, it could be that the problem had previously been under-reported -- possibly some cases were simply being mistaken for old age or general poor health.
More DCM Cases Reported Among Younger and Smaller Breeds
What we do know from the FDA's 2019 update is that there has been a rise in cases among #dog breeds not normally associated with DCM. Veterinary cardiologists are seeing more cases in breeds not generally predisposed to DCM, notably younger dogs and smaller breeds.
Still, 560 cases is an extremely small percentage of the total #pet population.
Sixty-eight percent of U.S. households, or about 85 million families, own a pet according to the 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA). Since most of us have more than one #furbaby, that adds up to 89.7 million dogs and another 94.2 million cats.
The point is that 560 cases over 5 years is an extremely small sample on which to cite any specific cause and effect.
The best thing pet parents can do is to closely observe your pets and seek medical care at the first sign of a problem or illness. DCM symptoms include:
Episodes of collapse
All of us at Marshall Grain are pet owners and we're all familiar with the pain of losing our beloved companions, so we want to know as much as you do if there is a dietary link to DCM. With more research, we're confident that the veterinary community will eventually find the cause and develop the needed treatments.