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The doggy genetic test - 100% golden, .06% wolfiness and 0% at risk for heart disease

Before the publication of the FDA report, dilated cardiomyopathy was believed to be caused by a genetics. It is understood that the identification of a splice site deletion of the PDK4 gene is associated with the development of DCM (Meurs, et a., 2012).  This abnormality is commonly seen in Doberman Pinchers, Saint Bernards and Caviler King Charles.

Now, we are starting to see breeds who are not genetically predisposed being diagnosed with DCM.  Their connection? A diet heavy in peas, lentils and potatoes - seen in many grain-free diets.  As a reminder, it is not the lack of grains causing heart disease, but what is being used as a grain-substitute
When Barley was diagnosed with DCM, the veterinarian mentioned that it could take a month to get the taurine results back from the lab (it took ~ 2-3 weeks).  The taurine labs have been overloaded with requests.  Taurine is typically the first test they run for golden retrievers to see if there is a deficiency that may be related to DCM.   …
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What is wrong with grain-free diets?

The problem isn't necessarily a lack of grains. The problem is that grain-free diets tend to substitute grains with legumes.   Adding grains into your dog's diet won't solve the problem.  However, excluding certain legumes will likely reduce the occurrence of heart disease, or heart disease progression. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is alerting pet owners and veterinary professionals about reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating certain pet foods containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes as main ingredients.

While taurine deficiency may be one of the causes to dilated cardiomyopathy, overall the cause is unknown.  According to the FDA,

Early reports from the veterinary cardiology community indicate that the dogs consistently ate these foods as their primary source of nutrition for time periods ranging from months to years. High levels of legumes or potatoes appear to be more common in diets labeled as “grain-free,” but it is not …

The warning signs

My biggest recommendation is to pay attention to behavior changes in your dog! Had we done that, we would have caught Barley's condition five months ago! 
About two weeks before the diagnosis, we started to noticed episodes of quick panting/breathing.  We dismissed this behaviors as Barley being excited. You see, Barley is a very excited dog.  She watches TV and loves certain commercials, she is obsessed with our treat-dealing mailman and she is obsessed with people.  She's always been an intense little creature.
I actually think Barley started exhibiting signs of heart failure in May of 2018, about five months before her diagnosis. Unfortunately we dismissed her symptoms as Barley being a better behaved dog.   Barley suddenly started walking without pulling on a leash.  She was calmer.  While she didn't stop activity all together, it was reduced. In hindsight one of the biggest indicators was Barley not swimming in deep water.    Later, as her heart weakened, she would o…

Grain-Free Diets and the Link to Heart Disease in Dogs

Did you know that 63% of veterinarians say grain free diets are unhealthy for dogs? 

In July 2018 the FDA began investigating the link between heart disease and grain-free diets.    The crux of the argument is that grain-free diets are substituting grains with legumes which may be potentially harmful to a dog's health and heart. 
The FDA report caught a lot of attention in July and raised concerns because they are seeing dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dog breeds who are not prone to genetic heart disease.  Of these cases, dogs shared one common theme - their diets. 
In the cases reported to the FDA, the dogs were being fed diets that commonly listed potatoes or multiple legumes as well as their protein, starch, and fiber sources early in the ingredient list, indicating that those were the main ingredients. High levels of legumes or potatoes are found often in products labeled as “grain-free.”  - FDA, July 12, 2018
Grain-free diets routinely substitute ingredients such as corn for …

The Diagnosis

The purpose of this blog is to share the information that I have about dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), how to navigate this diagnosis with young dogs, and the connection between DCM and grain free diets.  
Barley is a three year old golden retriever. She is a healthy dog. She is a 57 pound, allergy free, fit dog. She loves to fetch, hike, and swim. She loves the ocean.  She is stubborn, and knows what she wants. She is persistent and loving. She takes pride in how dirty she can get.   She needs baths.  She will destroy toys and steal her dog sister's treats if left unsupervised.  Barley is a lover. She loves people and loves to cuddle. She has a big heart.

Up until early October 2018, Barley never had a bad day in her life.  In October, Barley was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy.  That was her first bad day.  The following days were also bad.

Barley started panting excessively on Tuesday evening.  Leading up to that, she occasionally breathed heavily but we dismissed this as …