Shedding Light on DCM in Pets
What is it and what causes it?
Author: Noah Gaines
DCM or dilated cardiomyopathy, according to the College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University, is “a disease of the heart muscle that results in weakened contractions and poor pumping ability. As the disease progresses the heart chambers become enlarged, one or more valves may leak, and signs of congestive heart failure develop.”
This condition in dogs can result in symptoms like irregular heart sounds, labored breathing due to fluid and congestion in the lungs, fainting, weakness and even sudden death due to heart failure. It’s a scary thing for anyone to imagine happening to their beloved furry family member, but it is not considered a rare condition, especially for several specific large breeds.
You may have seen DCM popping up in pet-related news and blogs recently, as the FDA has opened an investigation into “diet-associated” DCM. This investigation was a result of several reports to the FDA of dogs being diagnosed with DCM after eating a grain-free diet. Specific concerns are foods that list legumes such as peas or lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes as the primary ingredients.
Ultimately, the causes of DCM are still widely speculated, and none can be pinpointed as a single known cause. While grain-free diets are one of the current factors being studied, there is a multitude of other factors that potentially weigh into it such as breed, age, weight, gender and more—DCM is more common in large breeds. And, according to the FDA’s most recent announcement on June 27th, “It’s important to note that the FDA doesn’t yet know how certain diets may be associated with DCM in some dogs.”
It is always unsettling to hear about pet food recalls and issues, and there is almost as much conflicting information out there about what is good for animals as there is for humans. But should you be concerned?
Dr. Jerry Klein, the Chief Veterinary Officer of the AKC stated that “at this time, there is no proof that these ingredients are the cause of DCM in a broader range of dogs, but dog owners should be aware of this alert from the FDA. The FDA continues to work with veterinary cardiologists and veterinary nutritionists to better understand the effect, if any, of grain-free diets on dogs.”
Contrary to the current news cycle – There is no concrete proof of the relation between grain-free diets and DCM, but many experts are continuing to study the issue. The best thing to do is monitor how any changes in diet affect your dog—their sleep, breathing, behavior and energy levels and, yes, their stool too—and see your vet for regular wellness checkups.
DCM is treatable with ACE inhibitor therapy and other medications, though it is not reversible and, as it progresses, the treatment program will need to be reevaluated and updated.
Posted on June 29, 2019