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). As we’ve shared in previous updates about DCM, there are many factors that can lead to a DCM diagnosis, including genetics, underlying conditions, and diet.
In the FDA’s December 2022 update, they state that:
“FDA has received reports of non-hereditary DCM associated with both grain-free and grain-containing diets. Most of the diets associated with reports of non-hereditary DCM have non-soy legumes and pulses (e.g., peas, lentils, etc.) high in their ingredient lists.
However, it is important to note that legumes and pulses have been used in pet foods for many years, with no evidence to indicate they are inherently dangerous. CVM’s data show that pulse ingredients are likely used in many “grain-free” diets in greater proportion than in most grain-containing formulas.”
What is the takeaway?
It is important that a significant percentage of protein is derived from an animal source in each recipe, such as in The Honest Kitchen’s recipes. Recipes initially linked with DCM utilized large portions of beans, peas or lentils to increase the protein content in their recipes. As noted by the FDA, these include both whole grain and grain free recipes. Additionally, legumes and pulses have been used in pet food for many, many years without issue and do not need to be avoided entirely.
Was The Honest Kitchen ever named in the FDA’s reports?
The Honest Kitchen was not named in any of the FDA’s reports of non-hereditary DCM cases. With a twenty-year track record of serving grain free and whole grain human grade foods that make a positive impact on pet health, and are crafted with the oversight of veterinarians and a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, we are confident that our recipes are safe, nutritious and healthy for pets.
The Honest Kitchen’s In-Home AAFCO Feeding Study with Echocardiograms
Additionally, we are pleased to announce that we have successfully completed an In-Home Comprehensive AAFCO Feeding Trial that substantiates our foods’ ability to provide nutritional adequacy and overall health in dogs. In-home trials with the Dehydrated Grain-Free Chicken Recipe for Dogs, Dehydrated Whole-Grain Chicken Recipe for Dogs & Clusters Grain-Free Chicken Recipe for Dogs were conducted by a third-party veterinarian group, fluent in both AAFCO standards and The Honest Kitchen’s products, spanning over six months and including eight healthy dogs in each study. In this study, all dogs who ate our foods had normal, healthy blood work results collected at three time periods throughout the study. Plasma and whole blood taurine levels were excellent at all time points.
All dogs eating grain free recipes received echocardiograms at the beginning and end of the study, and results were indicative of healthy dogs as evaluated by a board-certified veterinary cardiologist.
Based on our formulations, In-home AAFCO feeding study, 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.
Read more about our comprehensive In-home AAFCO feeding study here.
Tips for selecting a diet
Simply put, there is no one-size fits all diet and whether your pets should be on a grain free, or grain inclusive recipe should be determined by their own individual needs and any food sensitivities that may exist.
Some dogs are sensitive to grains, which could show up as dry, itchy skin, hotspots, GI upset, ear infections, chewing at the feet, increased inflammation, and runny eyes.
Other dogs actually do better when they’re fed grains. Grains are a great source of soluble fiber, minerals like magnesium and zinc, and B Vitamins. In some dogs, this soluble fiber can help maintain proper gut motility (reducing diarrhea and constipation), help maintain a healthy body weight, and help ‘always-hungry’ dogs to feel better satiated.
If you feel more comfortable switching to a grain-inclusive diet, or if your vet has recommended one, The Honest Kitchen has 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. If you’d like help making up your mind about whether a grain-free, grain-based or legume-free diet is right for your dog, we can help! Contact our support team, or take this quick quiz to find a recipe that meets your pet’s criteria.
Most veterinary nutritionists agree that meat, fish and other animal-based proteins like eggs (and the heart-healthy essential amino acids like methionine, cystine and taurine they contain), are the most important dietary components for supporting cardiac health. The vast majority of protein in our foods comes from animal sources. You can also further boost animal protein (and taurine) levels with added extras like:
- Meat based toppers (99% Meat)
- Your own raw or lightly cooked meat and fish
- Bone broth
- Pure meat treats
- Fish skin chews (Beams)
Our Whole Food Nutrition Philosophy
At The Honest Kitchen, the primary focus is on using highly nutritious ingredients sourced from the human food supply chain, and utilizing extremely gentle production methods that allow the nutrients to remain intact all the way to your dog’s bowl.
- 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 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
- Heart-healthy taurine, which is found in meat, is especially susceptible to high heat; lower temperatures help to maintain the natural taurine and other nutrients that already exist in the raw ingredients.
- 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: “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.
- 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 here.
We continue to await any updates from FDA along 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, and we’re happy to help you navigate any questions or issues you have.
We’ve also worked with two renowned veterinarians to provide you a balanced view on DCM. Read the whitepaper here.
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 email@example.com.