Skip to main content

What is dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), and how is it linked to my dog’s diet?

DCM is a condition that affects the muscles of the heart, making it difficult for the heart to generate enough pressure to pump blood effectively. Recent studies have suggested a potential link between certain diets and an increased risk of DCM in dogs – particularly diets that are grain-free or heavy on legumes (such as lentils, dry peas, or beans).

Why should I be concerned about feeding my dog a grain-free diet or one rich in legumes?

While the link between DCM and diet isn’t fully understood yet, research has shown a higher incidence of DCM in dogs who are fed diets containing legumes or lacking grains. These diets might lead to taurine deficiency, an essential amino acid for heart health. Some hypothesize that being taurine deficient makes these dogs more susceptible to whatever is causing the diet-associated cardiomyopathy.

How can I mitigate the risk of DCM for my furry friend?

Opt for a well-balanced diet that includes grains and doesn’t rely heavily on legumes. Grains provide valuable nutrients and fiber, and a diet with a diverse protein source is crucial. There is no medical or nutritional indication for “grain-free” diets per se – this is simply a marketing category and there is no specific benefit. It’s always a good idea to consult with your veterinarian to determine the best diet for your specific dog. Both of our local veterinary cardiologists currently recommend avoiding legume-rich and grain-free diets until we know more about their connection to DCM.

Are there specific grains that are good for my dog’s heart health?

Yes – whole grains like brown rice, oats, and quinoa are excellent choices. They offer a good balance of nutrients and energy without compromising your dog’s heart health. Mixing up the grain sources can add variety to your dog’s diet, promoting overall well-being.

Can I still give my dog a grain-inclusive diet if they have food sensitivities or allergies?

Absolutely! Many commercial and veterinary dog foods offer grain-inclusive options tailored for dogs with sensitivities. Always check with your veterinarian to help identify potential allergies and select a diet that meets your dog’s specific dietary needs.

How do I transition my dog to a new diet?

Slow and steady wins the race. Gradually introduce the new food over about a week, mixing it in an increasingly higher ratio with the old diet. This helps your dog’s digestive system adjust to the new food, minimizing any potential upset stomach during the transition.

Are there any other tips for maintaining my dog’s heart health?

Consistent exercise, regular veterinary check-ups, and keeping an eye on their weight are crucial elements in maintaining a healthy heart. A health-conscious lifestyle complements a balanced diet, contributing to your dog’s overall well-being.

Remember, every dog is unique, so it is essential to tailor their diet to their individual needs. If you have any concerns or questions about your dog’s heart health, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for advice – we’re here to help!

More information and resources from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.