Exotic Grain Free and Broken Hearts

What is Taurine?

Taurine is an essential amino acid that is important in the metabolism of fats and is linked to healthy heart function in both cats and dogs. In feline diets taurine is supplemented however canine diets do not require supplementation. In most cases taurine levels were not an issue until the introduction of exotic protein sourced grain free diets. Taurine is found commonly in chicken and beef and not in things commonly found in boutique foods such as pork, potatoes and legumes and many more.

What is DCM?

Dilated Cardiomyopathy is a heart disease that affects the dogs heart muscle. Simply put the weakening of the heart muscle leads to an enlarged heart, this dilation of the chambers of the heart lead to increased effort being required to pass blood through the heart. This can lead to leakage and results in a buildup of fluids in fluids in the chest and abdomen. This is congestive heart failure. It is often not reversible.

What are the symptoms of DCM?

​When a cat or dog presents with any heart disease the symptoms can vary and can come and go. The most common symptoms are a cough, lethargy, difficulty breathing and even collapse. If you notice any of these symptoms you should always consult your veterinarian for further work up. This may include checking of taurine levels in the blood however this is not always low in dogs that have presented for DCM on boutique dog foods.

What should I look for to prevent this problem?

First and foremost check your diets AAFCO statement. If it does not read “This diet has been tested to meet the need of _________ (life stage)….” you should ask the company if they have tested any of their diets. If the statement reads “This food has been formulated to meet the needs of _______” this means that simply put the food has not been put through any actual testing, it was simply formulated to meet the maximum and minimum numbers of a select few items such as protein, fat, moisture as outlined by AAFCO. Anyone can start a pet food company, many times there is little to no veterinary involvement leading to a product that is not nutritionally sound and results in problems we are now encountering with these exotic grain-free diets.

What do I need to do if feeding a diet like this?

If changing foods is not an option you need to begin Taurine supplementation. Taurine is needed at a dose of 50 mg per kilogram per day. If you need help calculating this please contact us via email, Facebook or phone. Changing foods would be our first recommendation and we will happily help you pick out an alternative food.

Why do you recommend the diets you do?

Simply put we stand behind diet companies that complete research. The 3 main companies that we support are Hills, Purina, and Royal Canin. These companies have put millions back into nutritional research and in turn have gained our trust. When looking at these diets the AAFCO statement most often reads ” Purina DH dental health has been tested to meet the needs of adult dogs” for example. Sometimes their statements will read “formulated to meet the needs” but only if the formula is very similar to another product that has already been tested. How do we know this? We asked and through complete transparency, they have told us this. This is true often for pet store varieties of the above-mentioned companies product. Unfortunately, companies like Acana, Blue Buffalo, Kirkland do not have massive research centers dedicated to the furthering of pet nutrition and health.

Where do I go if I have more questions?

Talk to your veterinary team. We are trained to have your pets best interest in mind and take additional education yearly often in nutrition. We have access to your pets medical history as well. Every pet is unique and so are their nutritional needs, speak to your veterinary team today. Often pet store staff may make recommendations but keep in mind the training they have? Ask them what their credentials are to make a recommendation for your pet, some have additional training, some do not. Keep this in mind when getting information for your pets nutritional needs. When in doubt ask more questions of the people selling the food and the company selling the food. We have a great guide of questions to ask a pet food company available to anyone who is further interested. Contact us at amcsouth@gmail.com to get a copy of the questionnaire.