Lately I've been asked multiple times each day about DCM. Our customers come to us because they want to feed the best food possible for their pets, and they are being bombarded with warnings about killing their dogs with grain-free foods. So, OK everyone, take a breath.
First of all, most of us switched from grained dog food to raw or grain-free because we saw some real differences in the health of our animals:
- less allergies
- less arthritis
- firmer stools
- more energy
- less Veterinary bills
- and most importantly, longer life spans
But we understand that raw feeding is not for everyone. For those that choose to feed kibble, it made sense that you wouldn't have found wolves or coyotes chowing down in a corn field or a rice paddy, yet there has to be a binding agent to hold kibble together, so what do you choose? Pet food companies decided to use potato or sweet potato, but then we noticed that this seemed to spike blood sugar levels since potatoes are so high on the glycemic index. So then, pet food companies branched out to use things like peas and legumes.....and now those items (as well as potatoes and sweet potatoes) are being blamed for dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). DCM is nothing new. It has always existed and some breeds are more prone to it genetically than others, but suddenly it has gotten so much publicity. In my opinion it was very unethical for the FDA to publish the dog food brands eaten by dogs in the study when the study SPECIFICALLY SAID IT COULD NOT LINK FOOD TO DCM. So, why did this happen? Follow the money!
Who stands to benefit if the grain-free pet food companies go out of business? There is currently an article online by Tufts University that says "Raw diets and homemade diets are not safe alternatives. Out of concern, some owners are switching from BEG diets to a raw or home-cooked diet. However, we have diagnosed DCM in dogs eating these diets too. And raw and home-cooked diets increase your dog’s risk for many other health problems. So, forego the raw or home-cooked diets and stick with a commercial pet food made by a well-established manufacturer that contains common ingredients, including grains." If that doesn't scream Purina/Iams/Eukanuba/Hills/Royal Canin, I don't know what does.
The problem with feeding grains, in my opinion, is that the quality of the grain is typically not going to be the best if it's used for pet food. You've heard of the phrase "bottom of the barrel"? This is what has notoriously been used for pet food....the lowest quality grain. And secondly, I believe that grains turn to sugar quickly...and sugar feeds yeast and cancer.......so I choose to avoid it. What you will see a lot of pet food companies doing is to come out with lines that are titled "Ancestral Grains". The new trend is to include grains other than corn and wheat and sell these as being a healthy alternative.
So, what to do???? Well, when you evaluate things like this, my advice is to "follow the money". There are many criticisms of the study that is being done.
- There are accusations that the study universities accepted over $1 million in donations from the major "grained" pet food companies.
- There has been NO PROOF that grain-free food can be tied to DCM
- There has been NO PROOF that the levels of DCM cases have increased from past years.
- Many of the foods in the study were labeled as "grain-free", but were not. A number of them included some grain (rice).
Personally, I have fed raw for over 18 years, and I've seen amazing differences. Most of my dogs have outlived their littermates by years. I have had much less Veterinary bills than when I fed kibble with grain....significantly less. I have fed one dog grain-free kibble (with peas and legumes) her whole life (9 yrs and counting) since she never wanted to eat raw, and she has done fine. That being said, I truly do understand the fear out there and want to provide my customers all the information that I get on this subject.
Recently a lawsuit has been filed about possible fraud by the FDA. It claims that those who wrote the articles for UC Davis and Tufts etc were paid by the big brands. One grain-free pet food company is demanding retraction by the FDA, and states:
“In 2017, the Morris Animal Foundation provided substantial funding to research institutions where four of the five authors were employed at the time the subject article was written. That year alone, the organization gave $231,479 to North Carolina State University (DAA), $94,883 to Tufts University (LMF and JER), and $150,299 to the University of California at Davis (JAS). In addition, information made available to me pursuant to the California Public Records Act reveals that Royal Canin, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Nestle-Purina Petcare, and the Morris Animal Foundation have all donated money (collectively, more than $1,000,000) to the veterinary school at the University of California Davis (JAS) since January 2017.”
For anyone interested, please feel free to contact me for the responses by each grain-free pet food company. Virtually every company has issued a rebuttal backed by their scientists.
I'm sure this will all sort itself out in time, but unfortunately many excellent pet food companies will not be able to remain in business with this sort of onslaught....which is what the large corporations intended. For our customers, we will continue to carry the highest quality grain-free kibble (all ranked 4.5-5 stars), and we will also carry a few of the highest rated grained dog foods so that we can assist customers who feel most comfortable with those varieties.