An Update on Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)

WHAT DO WE KNOW (AND NOT KNOW) SO FAR?

In July 2018, the FDA announced it was investigating whether or not there is a link between grain free diets, low taurine, and the suspected increased occurrence of Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). The FDA provided an update in June 2019, which contained its research to-date, and communicated that it is continuing the investigation.

The research presented does not show a definitive dietary link between grain free diets, or any specific ingredient, and the occurrence of DCM. While grain free, high legume diets are more represented than whole grain recipes in the data, an apparent correlation does not automatically imply cause. Much more still needs to be learned about this very complex issue before anyone can definitively draw conclusions about what role, if any, is played by diet, in the apparent increase in diagnoses of DCM.

While some customers are concerned about the potential health implications of feeding high quantities of legumes, when used in moderation, in whole-food form, they provide a wealth of beneficial nutrients. At The Honest Kitchen, we only use legumes in select recipes. When legumes are called for in a recipe, they never add up to more than the meat content and the vast majority of the protein in Honest Kitchen foods always comes from animal sources. We oppose the practice of ingredient splitting, which some brands deploy to disguise the true content of certain ingredients in their formulas. Overusing legumes to increase the protein in a food is also something we oppose.  

While 560 cases of DCM have been reported to the FDA over the past two years, tens of millions of dogs have been eating grain free foods without developing DCM. Testing by the FDA did not find nutritional differences between grain free and grain-inclusive diets including: protein, fat, moisture, crude fiber, total dietary fiber, soluble fiber, insoluble fiber, total starch, resistant starch, cysteine, methionine, taurine, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, cobalt, copper, zinc, selenium and iodine.

Additionally, peer-reviewed research does show that certain breeds are predisposed to DCM. Upwards of 30% of the dogs included in the FDA research were such breeds. We also know from the FDA that about 38% of dogs with DCM had a history of confirmed or suspected allergies or sensitivities to an environmental and/or food allergen, 9% had a history of hypothyroidism and 8% had one or more tick-borne diseases. A comprehensive, holistic approach would also include more detail on each animal’s lifestyle, to determine whether perhaps there is any correlation with other factors such as vaccine protocols and prescription medications (as DCM in people has been associated with both vaccines and certain prescription medications).

Unfortunately, the information presented to date is inconclusive and leaves much for interpretation. Technically, a list like this could be produced for any of the hundreds of ailments that can affect dogs during their lifetimes, such as liver or kidney disease, cancer or epilepsy; just because a dog is eating a certain food at the time he or she is diagnosed doesn’t necessarily mean that the food itself is the cause. Especially considering that DCM is complicated, and the underlying cause in many cases is not known.

That said, as a company of passionate pet owners, we wholeheartedly support any and all research that can improve the health and longevity of pets.

While it’s impossible for companies to make meaningful formula changes until more is known about any possible link between DCM and food, as a brand, we have always prided ourselves on being nimble in updating our recipes (for example, by removing alfalfa from our line the moment genetic modification of this crop became legal) and we would, of course, make any necessary formula amendments immediately if new best practices become known that would in any way apply to our line .

WHAT DOES THE HONEST KITCHEN DO TO ENSURE THE SAFETY OF ITS PRODUCTS?

We know that the subject of DCM can be confusing to navigate, especially with sensationalized media reports, which is why we’ve worked with two renowned veterinarians to provide you a balanced view on DCM.  Read the whitepaper here.

We’d like to assure you that we have full confidence that our recipes provide safe, nutritious, healthy options for dogs and cats. Over the past seventeen years, we’ve been making healthy, human grade foods for pets in both grain free and grain-inclusive recipes – all of which have a track record of making a positive, tangible impact on the health of hundreds of thousands of pets.

Our foods are made with human food ingredients (sourced from the human food supply chain) and are produced in a human food facility for the highest level of quality control. Quality, safety and integrity are built into our products from the ground up. It begins with sourcing top-notch, human grade ingredients by properly vetting every single supplier, and ensuring that they follow, unwaveringly, our zero tolerance of GMO ingredients, strict standards for pesticide residues, country of origin documentation and safety testing protocols for pathogens. We also conduct routine nutritional testing for all our foods, to ensure they meet or exceed the requirements of the AAFCO nutrient profiles. You can read more about our entire quality control program, and see test results here: www.thehonestkitchen.com/the-honest-differences.

In addition, we test for levels of nutrients, such as taurine, an amino acid that is necessary for heart health. Historically, taurine was not supplemented in canine diets, as dogs are able to make their own (as long as the recipe contains the minimum AAFCO recommended levels of cysteine and methionine). However, it does appear that certain breeds have varying degrees of either making or absorbing taurine (including one of the most popular breeds in the US, the Golden Retriever). Taurine is naturally occurring in our complete recipes thanks to our high-quality ingredients and gentle production methods, and we’ve begun adding a human grade taurine supplement to further boost the naturally existing taurine levels already present in our recipes.

In formulating our diets, we work closely with several Veterinarians and a Board-Certified Veterinary Nutritionist. Based on our formulations, nutritional profiles, independent laboratory data as well as a comprehensive review of all the currently available research, we continue to have the highest confidence that our foods are properly made and formulated in accordance with the peer-reviewed research that exists to date.

Built into our recipes and the way we do business is our nutrition philosophy.

  • We’re staunch believers in gentle production methods that help maintain the integrity of the natural nutrients in our healthy whole food ingredients.
  • We never use meat meals, but instead choose fresh and gently dehydrated human grade meats for every food we make. We always formulate with meat first, and all diets contain a high percentage of meat and healthy carbohydrate sources in moderation.
  • We only use real, human grade, whole food ingredients in our recipes and we never deploy ‘ingredient splitting’ on our labels, which is a tactic used by some companies to disguise the true content of certain ingredients in their formulas. For example, a food with the following (made up) ingredients deck: “Chicken, chicken meal, whole green peas, whole yellow peas, whole lentils, whole pinto beans, chicken liver, pea flour, chicken fat, chickpeas, pea fiber, lentil fiber….” This food could actually contain more legume-based ingredients than meat ingredients when all the ‘split’ legumes are added up.
  • If legumes are used in an Honest Kitchen recipe, they are never included in amounts that would add up to more than the total animal-based protein content.

Like the majority of integrative vets, we don’t recommend making panicked or sweeping changes to a pet’s diet based on over-simplification of a complex nutritional issue by mainstream media.

However, we understand if you would feel more comfortable switching to a  grain-inclusive diet and we do have a variety of healthy, human grade whole grain pet food options to choose from. We also have a good selection of recipes that are legume-free.

We continue to closely monitor the study from the FDA with our team of veterinary partners, and we will keep you posted as new information becomes available. We know that this issue can be confusing, with conflicting information from all sides, and we’re happy to help you navigate any questions or issues you have.

If you have any questions about DCM, or would like help deciding which Honest Kitchen product to feed your pet, you can reach us at questions@thehonestkitchen.com or 1-866-437-9729.

 

 

Meet the Author: Lucy Postins

Lucy Postins is founder and Chief Integrity Officer at The Honest Kitchen. She is a companion animal nutritionist who started The Honest Kitchen in her kitchen in 2002. She is passionate about advanced nutrition and holistic health including complementary modalities such as herbalism and homeopathy. Considered an expert in her field, Lucy frequently writes articles for local and national media, conducts radio interviews and educational spots, and occasionally holds educational seminars for pet owners on the importance of good nutrition. She also recently authored Dog Obsessed, a guide to a happier, healthier life for the pup you love.

Taurine in Dog Food