Something Fishy About The DCM and Grain Free Controversy

Something Fishy About The DCM and Grain Free Controversy

Hi Something Fishy About The DCM Cardiomyopathy and Grain Free Controversy

Please note this is strictly an opinion article and does not constitute medical advice in any way. Please consult your vet immediately if your pet has any medical issue.

So lately we have been getting a lot of questions in our store because of a recent FDA press release which names Acana as one of the commonly reported pet food in cases of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs. 

DCM is a heart disease that can lead to congestive heart failure. Certain breeds have a genetic predisposition for DCM, including many large breeds like Doberman’s, Golden Retrievers etc.

A family dog in the Natural Pet Foods ownership family actually died of this and ate grain free a good part of his life. But this 150 lb dog died at the age of around 13. The equivalent of about 100 years old for a dog this size. It's hard to accept the hardest part of pet ownership, and we know that. But dogs can live a great life on grain free diets, and know this from experience. Here is his photo on one of his last couple of days.


However, it isn't our opinion that a small proportion of legumes in pet foods will lead to this condition at a premature age. Rather more that dogs are living longer lives, and that they are able to live longer lives because of better foods like Acana, and supplements like Recovery Glucosamine, to extend the life of their joint health.

Another family pet Maya died in the winter at age 15. She had probably been eating a grain free diet for 10 years. Here is her photo a few years ago. Tri-acta and glucosamine helped her keep going for a few years beyond what would have been possible 25 years ago. So, pets do routinely live longer lives now and age related diseases will be reported more. 



Here is a link to the FDA press release on June 27th regarding the DCM issue

Here is a more complete breakdown of the occurance of DCM

Some customers buy food at their vet and often that brand is Science Diet and Royal Canin (Medi-Cal). There is a reason that medical doctors cannot sell medicine; it is their function to prescribe medication based on objective medical standards. We have seen at times that this could be a  conflict of interest if vets to be profit off pet food sales with financial gains, while at the same time being truly in the vet business for the welfare of animals. In this time that we have been in the natural pet foods business we have seen the quality of pet foods improve dramatically while the vet sold foods like Royal Canin and Hills Science Diet types of foods continue to include corn, corn gluten, by-products etc. It is easy to see the quality when you read the ingredients panel and see so many foods listed that would never be allowed in the human food chain.

There is an account of cardio myopathy in this case Hill's Science Diet (which includes grains) on the FDA website

Here is the text from the FDA website

"Hills prescription diet u/d canned food and dry food Dog Dalmatian 8 Years Male 96.4 Pound Hills Prescription U/D caused developmental cardiac deficiencies in our dog (b)(6). We believe it is unsafe to be used in canines over any length of time. We have extensive medical records for proof of this fact. (b)(6) was diagnosed with urolithiasis in March 2007 and after surgery was prescribed Hill Prescription Diet U/D dry and canned food. This was his only source of nutrition along with baby carrots as treats. On May 15, 2013, he developed an unusual cough which was continuous for the entire afternoon and evening. He woke up coughing at 3:00am as well. The next day I took him to the vet we were seeing at that time. He received an ECG after the vet heard a gallop heartbeat. He was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy and we immediately went to (b)(6) to the cardiology department. At that time, he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and started on enalapril, LASIX, taurine, L-carnitine , , and fish oil. His diet was changed to Royal Canine, low purine and Hill's L/D at the recommendation of the (b)(6) Nutrition Department. At that time, his cardiologist, Dr (b)(6), suspected that his heart disease was nutrition related. Hill U/D does not have enough of the proper nutrients in it to allow for adequate heart development and function. We knew that several months would have to pass before we knew for certain if this was indeed the case. We took him back to the cardiologist in August and he was showing some mild improvement. We took him again and February and the improvement in his heart function was astonishing. He still has dilated cardiomyopathy but it is improving vastly with his dietary changes. The improvements are not seen with heart medications alone according to his medical records. His long term prognosis is still uncertain but continued improvement is hoped for. It is not common knowledge among general veterinarians that this food is unsafe for long term use. This food should come with a warning label at the very least. I request that it be pulled from the market as it is the catalyst for heart disease and unsafe for canine consumption."

The FDA's own website lists the mean age as 6. The mean is another word for average, and is often not an accurate indicator of the most common age because it can be skewed by one number being exceptionally out of the most common age range. 

The fact of the matter is that many good quality pet foods today are indeed grain free and IF there was an increase in reporting of DCM which it seems there was then it is logical that the names of popular pet foods like ACANA would come up more often. It's certainly one of the most popular choices in our brick and mortar store. 

Improved pet foods like Acana have lots of meat and also a portion of fruits and vegetables. The extra anti-oxidants and supplements in these foods are leading to longer lives for pets that are being fed this. The idea is that a carnivore like a dog or cat will eat the stomach of an herbivore in the wild and as such the vegetable content is simulating the natural diet. Most fruits and vegetables could have the same benefits for pets as they do for people. 

Royal Canin Medical Diet and Hills Prescription diet still include chicken, grains, and synthetic vitamins. Grains include corn and corn gluten meal which are simple carbs that convert easily into glucose and are a risk factor diabetes. 

Here is the ingrdient list for Hills Science diet from their own webpage in July 2019

Chicken, Whole Grain Wheat, Cracked Pearled Barley, Whole Grain Sorghum, Whole Grain Corn, Corn Gluten Meal, Chicken Meal, Pork Fat, Chicken Liver Flavor, Dried Beet Pulp, Soybean Oil, Lactic Acid, Flaxseed, Potassium Chloride, Iodized Salt, Calcium Carbonate, Choline Chloride, vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), Niacin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement), minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), Oat Fiber, Taurine, Mixed Tocopherols for freshness, Natural Flavors, Beta-Carotene, Apples, Broccoli, Carrots, Cranberries, Green Peas.

Here is a link to hills science diet own page where you can click on a tab to view ingredients for yourself

It's actually not a terrible food but if you want your dog to live its longest possible life is this the best you can do? As you can see they have added a few fruits and veggies themselves to the ingredient list at the end but the ingredient consituting the most weight comes first in the ingredient list. Their fruits and vegetables come at the end after the vitamins so it's not a big part of the total weight of the bag. 

Here are the current July 2019 ingredients in Acana direct from Champion's website:


ACANA Pacifica features a rich variety of regional fish that are wild-caught by people we know and trust, and delivered to our award-winning kitchen fresh or raw.

Fresh whole Pacific herring (14%), fresh whole Pacific pilchard (12%), fresh whole arrowtooth flounder (8%), whole herring meal (8%), Pacific cod meal (7%), whole whiting meal (7%), whole green peas, whole red lentils, whole chickpeas, whole green lentils, pollock oil (6%), fresh whole silver hake (4%), fresh whole redstripe rockfish (4%), whole pinto beans, whole yellow peas, sun-cured alfalfa, cold-pressed sunflower oil, lentil fibre, dried brown kelp, fresh pumpkin, fresh butternut squash, fresh parsnips, fresh green kale, fresh spinach, fresh mustard greens, fresh turnip greens, fresh carrots, fresh Red Delicious apples, fresh Bartlett pears, freeze-dried cod liver (0.1%), fresh cranberries, fresh blueberries, chicory root, turmeric root, milk thistle, burdock root, lavender, marshmallow root, rosehips, enterococcus faecium.

SUPPLEMENTS: Vitamin E, Zinc Chelate, Copper Chelate."


Now here is a link to Acana Pacifica in our online store

Now we ask you if you feed one animal a diet of high protein with a small portion of nutritions fruits/vegetables, and feed another a diet of chicken, corn gluten meal, and synthetic vitamins; which one do you think will live longer?

The answer is probably the pet that is being fed a diet like Acana with lots of high quality protein, anti cancerous and anti aging fruits/vegetables, and supplements like glucosomine to extend their life into an old age. Playing the odds this would be the diet formula that gives you the maximum amount of time with your pet. 

With all the recalls in pet foods and problems with made in China ingredients, pet owners have had to become more knowledgeble. Consumers understand today that the chicken and corn gluten diet is not equivalent food quality to their own. People are more educated, care about their pet, and want it to eat like a member of your family. Would you feed your children a diet of corn gluten meal and vitamins? It wouldn't be a surprise if they got cancer and died an early death though we all know the unusual case of a person who smokes, eats McDonald's and lives to be 95 years old. It's the same thing with dogs who are fed a low quality ingredients like Hills Science Diet. 

Maybe pet food sales are down now for the vets with consumers being more educated. Pet foods have improved at a much faster rate than the stuff they sell. Now this article pointing a finger at high quality foods like Acana and Fromm has come out.

The comments in this article are very telling. Like this one that we have copied and pasted here from the CBC article. 

From Margaret Yakubovich on July 4th / 2019

"It is interesting to note that the FDA is partnered with Pet Nutrition Alliance who is also supported by Hills Science diet. Read their ingredient panel; it's not much better. This story that the FDA fed to press has no scientific basis in fact. Raw food that is balanced with human grade muscle meat, bone and organs is the only biologically appropriate diet. 
Why doesn't the CBC investigate the FDA and their political and financial links to their stakeholders because this is what they are all about!


Questionable timing isn't it? 

Some of the best Pet Food manufactureres replaced potatoes in previous grain free diets with lentils for some very good reasons. They're an excellent source of fibre, lower glycemic (lower risk factor for diabetes), and have more age slowing protective antioxidants in them. 

The basic idea behind the allegations against a lot of grain free diets seems to be that grain free diets with a lots of beans or lentils cause heart problems because they  interfere with the absorbtion of taurine.

The manufacturer of Acana Dog Foods is Champion Pet Foods and they made this statement online that states that they regularily test for taurine levels in dogs and that their studies indicate normal levels of taurine in Acana

Here is a link to the Acana Orijen website with their response

Fromm has also released a statement on the safety of their food.

We think this is a wrong conclusion. Seems that you can’t block that much taurine from being absorbed with the addition of a few lentils or chickpeas. Don't get caught up in the fear mongering about grain free diets. 

At the end of the day it's unlikely that the large amount of taurine naturally in a food like Acana could be neutralized by legumes and vegetables. It seems intuitively wrong. A bag of Acana is 65% sourced from animal protein sources. Companies like Champion Pet Foods and Fromm have also started adding more taurine to some formulas since the DCM issue.

Natural Pet Foods position is that dogs and cats are simply living longer lives because of good quality foods like Acana and Orijen and that is what is allowing heart problems to be develop and be detected at an older age. They are getting these heart problems BECAUSE the superb health benefits of the foods allow them to live long enough to get them.  

I would also suggest that the dog owners that spend money on a premium food are likely the same group of dog owners that spend money at the vets for their pet. It is not a broad spectrum study that looks at the dog population as a whole. Hopefully that will come in time. As pet owners we will have to wait.

In the meantime my dogs are fed a rotational diet. They love Acana, Orijen, Fromm, Farmina, Open Farms, etc and they do great with this varied diet, much like my own.

According to this online article heart disease unfortunately is even more common in dogs than people. It suggests that berries may be of benefit to dog owners concerned about protecting heart health.

If you want to supplement your dogs diet with beneficial berry powder then the Cranimals Very Berry is a great way to boost antioxidants in your dog's diet. You can get it in our online store here


We invite you do your own research and make your own conclusions, but whatever you choose we have the diet solution that fits YOUR bill in our online store. 

This article in no way constitutes medical advice and is strictly the opinion of Natural Pet Foods. Please consult your vet to discuss any medical issues. 

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