There has been a lot of talk about the need to abandon grain free dog foods because of a detected link between DCM (canine Dilated CardioMyopathy) and grain free dog foods. DCM leads to an enlargement of the heart and weakening of the heart muscle. We have consulted with our veterinary partners and they concur that there is a link but that link comes with a few caveats.
1. The prime suspect is a chemical called Taurine. In young healthy dogs taurine is synthesized in the liver. As dogs age they lose this ability but dietary sources can supplement it.
2. Golden Retrievers are not one of the high risk breeds for DCM. Those tend to be small breeds, like Pekinese and Jack Russel terriers and such. It was when reports began to come in of an increase in DCM in larger breeds that the Food and Drug Administration started to look into it. To oversimplify, dog foods with primary ingredients such peas and lentils do not have sufficient meat components to provide enough taurine for older dogs who can’t manufacture enough on their own.
3. We were also informed that many of the manufacturers of grain free dog foods have now begun to include taurine supplements in their products. We have checked out Natural Balance and Earthborn and they in fact do list taurine on their ingredients. There are probably others who are jumping on the bandwagon. Here there is no substitute for reading labels. Know what you are buying for your dog and know what is in it.
4. We all know there are some dogs who have food allergies. Finding the right brand for your dog can be a challenge and if you have such a dog you might be reluctant to start searching for something and putting up with the scratching and paw-licking that comes with it. For those in such circumstance there are normal foods such as eggs, dark-meat poultry, and red meat which are excellent sources. Few Goldens will turn their nose up if offered such a treat. If you elect to go this route just let your vet know what you are doing so he or she can monitor your dog.
We’ll continue to watch the issue as the research continues and issue further updates if needed.