One of the benefits of living in Davis is having a world-class veterinary research center right down the road, one that produces research like the work highlighted in the article “Dogs Fed Some Popular Diets Could Be at Risk of Heart Disease.” Yet the more that I learn about this research, the more I realize how resistant people are to the message.
The rough idea is this: researchers have found a relatively recent increase in the number of dogs diagnosed with Taurine-Deficient Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). DCM is a disease of the heart muscle that leads to reduced heart pumping function and increased heart size, and it can result in severe consequences such as congestive heart failure or sudden cardiac death. Researchers are still trying to isolate the exact cause, but it has been associated with grain-free diets, raw diets, and foods that contain exotic ingredients like peas and lentils. It is not yet known why these foods would lead to low taurine and DCM, but adding taurine (an amino acid) to the dog’s diet does not seem to help. (More details here).
So, the cautious approach would seem to be to avoid feeding dogs these boutique and grain-free foods until researchers figure things out further. What should dogs eat, then? A Facebook group which is facilitating the gathering of data and exchange of information among researchers is currently recommending Purina Pro Plan, Hills Science Diet, Royal Canin, Eukanuba, and Iams.