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The Risks of Feeding “Grain-Free” Diet to Dogs

Boutique foods, exotic ingredients, and grain-free diets (so called BEG) are quite trendy nowadays. A recent study found that grain-free diets may be more harmful for some dogs compared to other foods. If you are feeding your dog a grain free diet, or considering it, it is important to understand possible negative long-term effects on dogs’ health.

Some people try to go grain free as an elimination diet for skin allergies. In fact, it is the protein in the food that dogs may be allergic to, not the grains. So changing to grain-free food won’t solve itchy skin issues. Best to talk to you veterinarian about treatment options and changing to an appropriate diet if needed.

Canine heart disease may be linked to grain-free diet

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first alerted the public about the dangers of grain-free diets back in 2018, and a new study has named 16 dog food brands (some of which is available in Australia too) that have been linked to enlarged heart condition also called as dilated cardiomyopathy. DCM is a potentially life threatening heart failure but with early intervention – if the heart problem is not congenital -, the disease can be reversed.

The FDA data revealed that the vast majority (over 90 percent!) of the dogs suffering from dilated cardiomyopathy were reportedly fed grain-free diet. Grain in such foods is usually substituted by green peas, lentils or sweet potato and the most commonly affected dog breeds include Golden Retrievers, Great Danes, German Shepherds, Standard Poodles, Mastiffs, Bulldogs and Shih Tzus. 

According to Dr Beth Davidow, a Seattle based veterinarian, “we still don’t know the exact reason why these diets are linked to the development of  severe heart disease.  It is unclear if it is the lack of grain, the addition of peas or lentils, a different ingredient, or an interaction of those ingredients with genetics.”

What can you do?

First of all, talk to your vet about the nutritional need of your dog. Don’t solely rely on the advice of salespeople, other pet owners and don’t fall for marketing slogans. A medical professional well-versed in nutrition will be able to provide science-based information suited to your pet’s individual needs, age, breed and overall health.

Look for warning signs. If you notice that your dog has been tiring more easily, has difficulty breathing and has been coughing, seek urgent vet care. More severe symptoms include sudden weakness or collapse.

Please get in touch if you feel concerned about your pet’s well-being. We offer house call vet visits in Brisbane and are happy to assess your pet’s general health and nutritional needs and advise on the best possible food for your furry family member. To book an appointment online, visit this link, or call (07) 3569 6830.

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