Over the past several years there has been a trend toward feeding grain-free diets to our pets. Unfortunately, that trend was not based on any scientific studies or research- it was based on a marketing fad. Unless we have a gluten sensitivity or intolerance (which dogs generally do not get), there is absolutely no reason your pet needs to be eating a grain-free diet.

Pet food companies caught on to the fact that pet owners are asking for grain-free foods and have largely eliminated grains from their products. In fact, the vast majority of commercially available foods advertise “GRAIN FREE” in big letters on their bags. There are still many grain-containing foods available, they are just a little harder to find.

A recent statement by the FDA confirmed what vets were worried about- the grain-free fad may have been hurting our pets. There have now been dozens of reports of heart problems in dogs eating grain-free diets. Most of these dogs are large breed dogs.

So what do we do? Right now the studies are very early, but it looks like the best thing to do is jump off the grain-free wagon and reintroduce grains to your pet’s diet. We’re not going to advocate for a certain brand of dog food- there are many out there to choose from.

What to watch for? The signs of heart disease vary between dogs, but in general you should watch for lethargy, exercise intolerance, or cough. X-rays and heart ultrasound (echo) can help determine if your pet has heart disease. Call us if you’re concerned.

Dr. Finan