• DCM, the story continues…

August 03, 2020

Laura Gil Martens, DVM, PhD
Chief Nutritionist/R&D Manager, AM Nutrition AS
Advisor in Pet Health and Nutrition to Fish4Dogs


It is common knowledge that there has been an ongoing study by the FDA highlighting a possible correlation between grain-free dog foods and Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM).  The study claimed that grain-free foods are prone to be deficient in amino acid taurine, and high inclusion levels of legumes in grain free diets may result in taurine deficiency in dogs.

Briefly, DCM is when the heart can’t pump blood efficiently because the main pumping section is enlarged and weakened. DCM is a CVD (cardiovascular disease) as it effects the heart’s ability to pump blood. Taurine is an amino acid (building block of protein) that dogs can make themselves from another amino acid that must be in their diet, cysteine. However, if there aren’t enough of these other amino acids’, dogs can become deficient in taurine. Taurine deficiency normally affects the heart first, and then the eyes. Natural sources of taurine include fish, meat, and dairy products. Natural sources of cysteine include fish, meat, eggs, dairy, and sprouted lentils. However, there are other large number of risk factors for DCM which have been well described in the study McCauley et al. 2020


2018, The Beginning:

The initial cause for concern was the fact that there were reported cases of DCM in dogs usually not genetically prone to the condition that were also eating a grain-free diet.  This led to a statement published by the FDA in July of 2018 suggesting a correlation.  Concerns have rumbled on for over 2 years leaving pet parents confused about the best course of action, if indeed they needed to do anything. Indeed, we were able to speak to many owners, who were looking to continue with grain free feeding but also trying to understand nutritional science and why we were so confident in our food.  So why were we so confident?  We use fish and a few select ingredients, which all have an understandable purpose.  Fish is a natural source of Taurine and to be doubly sure of our levels we add a level of taurine to achieve a constant level, even if the natural levels changes slightly.  So yes, we remained confident in our food and the levels of taurine it included, but how many other pet food brands were faced with the same questions?

Fast forward to 2020:

DCM is once again in the news – but this time it is because after 2 years of study, articles are now being published stating that no conclusive link can be found between 150 DCM cases and grain-free, legume-rich diets.  These studies also seem to state that the science now leans more towards DCM being a largely inherited disease.

 Proud of our grain free recipe

We wanted to gain the best understanding of this issue, so we examined the results of more than 150 studies, which taken together did not support a link between grain-free and legume-rich diets, and DCM,” said Dr. Sydney McCauley, an animal nutritionist. “What the science does make clear is that DCM is largely an inherited disease.”

Since the initial DCM study came to light in 2018, there have been many reported cases of DCM in dogs who primarily ate a grain-free diet, however the information was incomplete, as stated by BSM researchers. While these dogs did have DCM, the FDA studies were missing important information, i.e. complete diet history, age, and other pre-existing health conditions.    In other words, there was a correlation, however the findings were prematurely reported as there were other factors playing an integral role that needed to be considered. 

Studies will be forever on-going as the pet food industry cares about producing the best products for your dog and will stop at nothing to ensure quality. And Fish4Dogs? We will continue to champion fish as a great choice of protein for dogs. We continue to champion our food, healthy, tasty fish based, grain-free dog food that is a complete and balanced diet.  That is why we call ourselves the Champions of Fish.  We have over 12 years of research, data and leading nutritionists on our side which helped culminate a plethora of scientific & tested data to back our recipes. We work with Veterinary’s, Nutritionists’ and have an in-house technical team who ensures proper testing of our complete food twice per year, or when needed.  We are a small, close-knit team of pet lovers who care deeply for the health and wellness of our dogs and yours.

 Our Grain free dog food tastes good


Freeman, DVM, PhD, DACVN, Lisa M. “It's Not Just Grain-Free: An Update on Diet-Associated Dilated Cardiomyopathy.” Clinical Nutrition Service at Cummings School, 28 Aug. 2019, vetnutrition.tufts.edu/2018/11/dcm-update/.

Putnam, Julie. “FDA Investigates Canine Heart Disease Cases Potentially Linked to Diet.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, 2018, www.fda.gov/news-events/fda-brief/fda-brief-fda-investigates-cases-canine-heart-disease-potentially-linked-diet.

Wall, Tim. “No DCM Link to Grain-Free Dog Food in 150 Study Analysis.” PetfoodIndustry.com, PetfoodIndustry.com, 18 June 2020, www.petfoodindustry.com/articles/9319-no-dcm-link-to-grain-free-dog-food-in-150-study-analysis.

Sydney R McCauley, Stephanie D Clark, Bradley W Quest, Renee M Streeter, Eva M Oxford (2020) “Review of canine dilated cardiomyopathy in the wake of diet-associated concerns”. Journal of Animal Science, Volume 98, Issue 6, June 2020, skaa155.  https://academic.oup.com/jas/article/98/6/skaa155/5857674

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.