DCM - Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy

UPDATE: As of February 15, 2020 the FDA has not released any new information regarding the report. David Edwards, PhD of the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine’s Office of Surveillance and Compliance was quoted at the Annual Pet  Food Conference on January 28, 2020 saying, "As for public updates, there are none planned at this time.”  Read more here. 

For a quick read of DCM Myths Vs. Facts Click here

 

FOR PET OWNERS CONCERNED ABOUT DCM 

We love all pets and have always advocated for pet wellness. That’s why we put so much time into learning everything we can about the pet industry. So we can help educate customers about pet health, and give them suggestions on what key topics to discuss with their veterinarian.

The past few years have been focused on pet nutrition. Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) has been in the headlines, on social media, and apparently a big topic in veterinary offices. You, our loyal customers, are asking us for advice on safe, healthy pet diets. To help provide insight into the issue of DCM and overall nutrition we’ve put together the following content.

The landscape is ever-changing, and currently there are no clear answers, so it is imperative that pet owners do their own research. We will continue to advocate for your pets wellness by doing ours.

WHAT IS DCM?  DCM is a disease of the cardiac muscle (heart) that affects the ability of the heart to produce enough pressure to pump blood through the vascular system.

WHAT CAUSES DCM? Veterinary resources state that this disease is multifactorial and can be caused by:

Infections affecting the heart -- Bacterial or Viral

Genetics – Breeds can be biologically predisposed

    • Males more than females
    • Large breed dogs more than small breed dogs
    • Obese or overweight dogs

Nutritional Deficiencies

    • Lack of Taurine, L-carnitine, Methionine, Cysteine, (all amino acids found in proteins in foods)

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF DCM?

Serious Signs

    • Rapid Breathing (more then 30-35 breaths per minute)
    • Coughing or Gagging
    • Fainting or Collapsing Suddenly
    • Labored Breathing (not able to get enough air)
    • Sudden Collapse or Death

Slower Onset Signs

    • Lethargy (Weakness)
    • Reduced energy when exercising or playing
    • Depression in attitude or willingness to eat or play
    • Decreased appetite or weight loss
    • Enlarged or Distended Abdomen

WHY ARE WE TALKING ABOUT DCM?  An opinion piece written by Dr. Lisa Freeman was published in June 2018 claiming DCM is caused by a taurine deficiency stemming from select pet food ingredients with no scientific study or peer review. The FDA then announced it would investigate the reports.

WHAT DID THE FDA DO? The FDA requested vets and consumers to submit cases of DCM and gathered information about the feeding patterns of the impacted dogs. No scientific studies were performed and no additional testing was done on pre-existing conditions or genetic predisposition of the cases which were reported to them.

WHAT DID THE FDA REPORT? Ultimately 540 cases were reported – out of an estimated 77 million dogs in America (.000007%). The FDA publicized brand names of select foods being fed to the affected pets, thereby causing a panic amongst consumers, news media and social media to avoid the ‘named brands’.

WHAT SHOULD WE TAKE FROM THE FDA REPORT?

  • No long term studies have found conclusive evidence tying any ingredient, food, or manufacture to causing DCM, although specialty pet food became labeled as the culprit.
  • Additional research is required to determine the impact of other factors on DCM, such as breed, size, gender, weight and genetic predisposition.
  • The FDA recommended to NOT change a pet’s diet based solely on the information in the report…and has not changed its perspective in the past 2 years.
  • It is important to note that some of the reports made to the FDA were for pets that did now show taurine deficiencies when tested. Adding taurine is NOT a guarantee that DCM will be prevented as many other factors can affect the acquisition of this disease.

WHAT ARE YOUR CHOICES AS A PET OWNER?

If your pet pet is thriving on its current diet and you believe that your dog is one of the millions that are not affected, you can choose to adhere to the FDA recommendation and not change your pet’s diet.

  • Always follow the daily recommended feeding guidelines from the manufacturer
  • It was found that a significant number of reports submitted to the FDA were from pet owners not feeding their pets the recommended daily guidelines.
  • Therefore it is assumed they were not receiving the necessary daily nutrients.

If your pet is thriving but you want to feel extra safe, you could choose to add taurine-rich items to your pet’s diet.

  • This might be a consideration for pets on their current diet to mitigate allergy or other health issues such as a compromised immune or digestive system.
  • When “treating” your pet, choose items from animal sources (meat and dairy) that will provide extra taurine to supplement what is provided in their food.

  • Adding probiotics to their diet can further help ensure optimal nutrient absorption.
  • Raw Goat’s Milk is high in taurine and also offers the benefit of fermentation which reduces the impact of any anti-nutrient ingredients.

If you want to approach your pets health from a very cautious standpoint, you could choose to switch to a high-meat, low-grain food that is free of suspect ingredients.

  • Then further build your nutrition profile by supplementing with taurine-rich treats, foods and supplements.

If your pet shows any signs of DCM or you have concerns about the ingredients in your pet’s diet, consult your veterinarian immediately.