Heart Disease & Grain Free Diets

Puppy and Treats

We have noticed many of our clients have questions on the relationship of Grain Free diets and Cardiac Disease the more this topic has entered into the public eye. Dr. Suzanne Barnes has put together this great article to help clear up any questions you may have. In addition we  have provided a some great links that delve further into the subject below. We are certainly always here to discuss any concerns you may have regarding your pet’s diet.

On July 12, 2018, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a document alerting pet owners to the dangers of feeding certain diets and their apparent link to a specific cardiac disease of dogs. These certain diets are known to be high in peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes. Commonly, these diets are listed as “grain free”. The concern is that dogs are developing a cardiac condition known as dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). Some dog breeds will commonly be affected by this condition through genetic predispositions whereas other dog breeds do not have a genetic predisposition. It is in some of these other breeds that we are seeing an increase in DCM while having been fed a “grain free” diet. In some of these cases, dogs are developing heart disease and presenting in acute heart failure. Some of them are suffering a sudden death. If your dog has been on a grain free diet from a small dog food manufacturer also known as a “boutique” producer for months to years, then we recommend changing the diet to a commercial food or a food that has undergone a feed trial.


A feed trial indicates that the food has been fed to a group of dogs for a certain amount of time and their nutritional status has been evaluated and deemed appropriate for sustainability. Many smaller food manufacturing companies produce food based on an AAFCO statement and follow the recommendations set forth but have not tested their food in a live population to ensure nutritional adequacy. We recommend feeding a food from a company that has a long history of producing food and that has done the research to ensure their food has met the necessary standards to support life and maintain health.


We also recommend monitoring your dog for any signs that are associated with heart disease. Clinical signs associated with DCM can include decreased energy, coughing, exercise intolerance, increased breathing rate or effort, difficulty in breathing, and sudden collapse. If you are concerned that your pet is experiencing any of these signs then we recommend bringing your pet in for an exam and we’ll discuss our recommendations to do a cardiac evaluation with chest x-rays, blood work, blood pressure evaluation and an electrocardiogram based on your pet’s individual needs.


CVCA – Cardiac Care for Pets shared a great live video on Facebook with Dr. Steven Rosenthal. You may also visit their website for a Q&A on Grain Free Diets they have provided following the video release.

Dr. Suzanne Barnes has also found two other references on the subject, an article from the Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University and the original FDA Notice released on July 12, 2018.