Common Ingredients in Grain-Free Dog Food May Fuel Canine Heart Disease


A new study from Tufts University has found that certain dog food ingredients can cause heart disease in our canine companions, and those same ingredients are often included in grain-free dog foods. The study focuses specifically on canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a disease that affects the heart muscle.

To study the potential link between diet and DCM in dogs, the researchers looked at both traditional dog foods and foods linked by the FDA to canine DCM. More than 800 compounds were evaluated, and the study found that 88 biochemicals were higher in dog food products associated with DCM by the FDA.

Additionally, the study found 23 compounds that are found in lower amounts in these DCM-related dog foods. Further work narrowed it down to the “30 major compounds” that separate the two different dog food groups (related to DCM and not related to DCM). Finally, the researchers say that four specific ingredients distinguish these two groups: chicken / turkey, rice, lentils and peas.

Peas, in particular, had the greatest association with higher concentrations of potentially problematic compounds in dog foods linked to DCM. According to the study, dog foods linked to DCM are most often marketed as “grain-free” options, using ingredients like sweet potatoes and potatoes in place of more common ingredients like corn and corn. rice.

The study goes on to explain:

When the four distinctive ingredients are plotted, the ingredient-compound relationship for peas shows stronger bars for peas compared to the other ingredients, which supports the possibility that peas contribute to higher concentrations of these biochemicals. Unlike peas, rice and chicken / turkey are primarily associated with open bars, indicating lower amounts of the compounds in association with these ingredients. Compared to peas, the ingredient-compound associations for lentils are less numerous, but in the same direction as peas.

The researchers note that at this time, they cannot say whether the presence of peas and, “to a lesser extent”, lentils and the compounds they contain are the cause of DCM in dogs. However, they note that dog foods containing these ingredients were also “generally associated” with compounds found at higher levels in DCM-related diets compared to others.

“The results support peas as a possible main ingredient associated with DCM associated with diet in dogs,” the study concludes. This doesn’t mean that these ingredients are inherently risky for dog health, however, with the study offering possible explanations for the links between these foods and DCM, including potential nutritional deficiencies in these food formulations.

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