The Truth About the FDA’s Grain-Free Dog Food Warning
While the FDA’s recent announcement about a possible link between certain grain-free foods and heart disease in dogs could have serious implications for the health of many canines, there is a troubling lack of information behind this announcement—and that could very well result in an unnecessary panic that would have catastrophic impact on the pet food industry.
Late last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning to pet owners and veterinarians that it is investigating “reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating certain pet foods containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes as main ingredients”—ingredients often associated with grain-free diets.
Taken at face value, this warning is alarming, to say the least. However, when you look more closely, it becomes clear that there is very little hard evidence about what connection the ingredients might have to DCM—if there is any connection at all.
While the FDA points out that four of the reports involved dogs that had a deficiency of the amino acid taurine in their blood, which is well-documented as potentially leading to DCM, four other dogs involved in reports had normal blood taurine levels. What’s more, the FDA does not mention any evidence specifically connecting taurine deficiencies with grain-free diets. And while some of the research in this area was explained to me by a couple of pet food manufacturers, it is incomplete and inconclusive, at best.
With that said, it seems quite premature for the FDA to speculate on a potential link between grain-free diets and heart disease in dogs, particularly given the mountain of evidence that we have to the contrary—in the form of the millions of dogs that have enjoyed great health while being fed these diets for years. Of course, we all would want to know if real evidence of such a connection is found, including the manufacturers of grain-free diets. But in today’s age of media sensationalism and click-bait culture, issuing premature warnings—particularly from trusted agencies like the FDA—seems like a recipe for disaster.