Feeding Your Dog This Diet Could Cause Heart Problems, Experts Say

If you're ditching grains from your dog's diet, it could spell serious trouble for their heart health.

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Whether you've opted for a low-carb meal plan or ditched gluten, grain-free diets have seen a major surge in popularity in recent years. And while adopting a new way of eating may have yielded positive effects for you, if you're thinking of putting your dog on a grain-free diet, it could spell big trouble. According to a 2020 study published in PLOS One, dogs who eat grain-free diets may be at an increased risk for heart problems.

Researchers at the University of California, Davis, examined the behaviors and diets of 24 golden retrievers who developed a taurine deficiency and dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart chambers expand and become less effective at pumping blood. They then compared the dogs to a cohort of 52 golden retrievers in good health.

Among the group experiencing taurine deficiencies and dilated cardiomyopathy, 23 out of 24 dogs had been fed diets that were either grain-free, high in legumes, or some combination of the two. Eleven of the dogs with both conditions also had congestive heart failure.

When provided taurine supplements and food that wasn't grain-free, 15 out of 16 dogs with dilated cardiomyopathy had improvements in their heart health at an average of eight months post-study. Among the 11 dogs with congestive heart failure who had been prescribed a diuretic medication, nine recovered from the condition and five were able to stop treatment with the medication.

cute black girl embracing her retriever in nature.
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The PLOS One study isn't the first indication that these diets could mean serious trouble for your canine friends, however. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that it has been investigating the link between dilated cardiomyopathy and grain-free diets since July 2018. According to the FDA's research, among a group of 515 dogs with dilated cardiomyopathy, 91 percent were on grain-free diets and 93 percent were fed foods with peas or lentils among the primary ingredients.

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Fortunately, even if your pet is sensitive to certain grains, there are options that can help them remain comfortable without increasing their risk of heart disease. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) suggests coming up with an alternative to a fully grain-free diet with your vet and ensuring that any pet that's been on a grain-free or legume-heavy diet remains closely monitored for cardiac issues. And for more insight on how to keep your pets safe, check out these 7 Coronavirus Pet Facts That Every Owner Needs to Know.

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