Does Grain Free Dog Food Cause Heart Disease?

Does Grain Free Dog Food Cause Heart Disease? In recent years, concerns about the link between grain-free dog food and heart disease in dogs have garnered significant attention. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been closely monitoring reports of Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs, potentially associated with diet. As a responsible pet owner, it’s crucial to understand the facts and implications of this issue.

Does Grain Free Dog Food Cause Heart Disease

Does Grain free dog food cause heart disease?

The link between grain-free dog food and heart disease (DCM) exists, but it’s not solely attributed to grain-free diets. Research suggests that ingredients like peas, lentils, and chickpeas (pulses) could contribute by hindering nutrient absorption. However, the risk is relatively low, and most dogs on grain-free diets do not develop heart disease. 

A varied and balanced diet, regular veterinary care, and open communication with your vet are key to maintaining your dog’s health.

The Numbers and Background

As of July 2020, the FDA received reports of approximately 1100 dogs developing DCM related to their diet. Between July 2020 and the end of 2022, an additional 282 cases were reported. It’s essential to note that these reported cases are a minute fraction compared to the estimated 80 million dogs in the United States.

DCM is a serious condition where the heart becomes thin and dilated, leading to improper contractions and heart failure. Initially seen in specific breeds like Dobermans and Great Danes, it started appearing in breeds like Golden Retrievers, hinting at a diet-related link.

The Diet and DCM Connection

The original FDA report 2018 pointed to certain grain-free dog foods as potential culprits for DCM. However, the latest update from the FDA refrains from naming specific brands. Research from Tufts University and other institutions indicates that DCM can be associated with a grain-based or grain-free diet.

  • DCM has closely implicated three ingredients: peas, lentils, and chickpeas (also known as pulses). These ingredients contain phytates, which can hinder the absorption of vital nutrients like taurine, potentially contributing to DCM in dogs.

Understanding the Risk

The risk of a dog developing DCM due to diet is relatively low. The chance is significantly minimal, considering the vast number of dogs and the small number of reported cases. If your dog is thriving on its current diet, there’s no urgent need to switch.

Preventive Measures

To be cautious, you can take certain steps to mitigate the potential risk:

  • Variety in Diet: If you prepare homemade meals for your dog, ensure variety. While including peas is acceptable, consider rotating different vegetables to avoid excessive consumption of pulses.
  • Incorporate Canned Food: Include canned food in your dog’s diet, as it can offer additional nutrients and a different texture.
  • Homemade Meals: Occasionally prepare homemade meals for your dog using well-researched recipes to ensure a balanced diet.
  • Raw Feeding: If feasible, consider raw feeding as it promotes natural nutrition.

Video: Is Grain-Free Dog Food Still Causing Heart Disease?


While the link between diet and DCM exists, the likelihood of a dog developing DCM due to its diet is relatively low. However, staying informed and maintaining a balanced and varied diet for your furry friend is essential. Regular veterinary check-ups and open communication with your veterinarian can help ensure your dog’s overall health and well-being.

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