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  1. #1
    Road Dawg lattelove's Avatar

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    Default Boutique and grain-free diets linked to heart disease?

    Has anyone been following the research about "BEG" diets (short for boutique, exotic ingredient, or grain-free) being linked to death from heart disease (specifically Taurine-Deficient Dilated Cardiomyopathy) in dogs? I have seen several article in my Facebook feed about this over the past couple of months. Apparently, they are not sure if it is the absence of grains or the addition of other ingredients like peas and legumes in these recipes that are causing the heart problems. For anyone familiar with this, what do you think about it? Is anyone considering switching to a different food because of this?

    Latte's food is not what I consider "boutique" (Nature's Domain from Costco), but we do feed her a grain-free recipe. We chose grain-free not because she has a reaction to grains, but because our daughter has celiac disease, and we want to limit exposure to gluten-containing grains as much as possible (even through handling her food).

    I'm normally not one to be extremely reactionary until seeing more evidence, but I am hearing that many vets are now recommending avoiding high-end or grain-free diets because of the amount of evidence implicating them in this particular disease?

    Here is one link to a website with information and research: https://taurinedcm.org/taurine_dcm_pdfs/

    Thoughts?

  2. #2
    Road Dawg lattelove's Avatar

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    Here is an FDA update on the issue:

    https://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary...7ULfnzNcxSAgIc

  3. #3
    Old Dawg (Senior Member) SebastiansMom's Avatar

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    Honestly, I think it would be a good idea to talk to your daughter’s doctor to see if there is much of a risk of cross-contamination from dog food that might contain gluten, and if so, if s/he has any tips for minimizing the risk. Maybe keeping the dog food somewhere other than the kitchen, and hand-washing Latte’s bowl in a sink other than the kitchen sink. I honestly have no idea how careful you have to be.

    If I had to guess, I would say that there is a good chance that unless a dog food specifically states that it is gluten-free, there’s a good chance that there is gluten hiding in it somewhere - maybe in the natural flavors, maybe as a binding agent for vitamins and minerals - as I am sure you know by now, gluten has a way of turning up in foods where it is least expected.

    Should you decide that keeping as much gluten out of your home as possible is what is right for your family, you can talk to your vet about your concerns about the link between grain-free foods and heart issues, and see what your best course of action might be. The particular issue that has been linked to grain-free foods (dilated cardiomyopathy, or DCM), is more commonly seen in some breeds than in others. The story I saw floating around FB yesterday was about two Labradors. Labs are unfortunately one of the breeds in which DCM is more commonly seen.
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    Road Dawg lattelove's Avatar

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    Hi, SebastiansMom. Most doctors do not seem to believe that brief handling of gluten-containing foods cause any harm to someone with celiac disease, although you can find some that think any exposure at all should be eliminated (which is admittedly, just about impossible). In our case, I just figured that since grain-free dog foods are readily available today, why not feed grain-free out of an abundance of caution?

    Since my daughter is responsible enough to wash her hands carefully after handling the dog food, we're going to go ahead and make the switch to a grain-inclusive food since Latte's current food does contain 3 of the suspect ingredients at the top of the ingredients list (sweet potatoes, peas, and potatoes).

    The more I research this issue, the more concerned I become since more and more vets are seeing dogs with this heart condition that are being fed boutique or grain-free diets, and are not among the breeds typically predisposed to it. I also wanted to make everyone aware of the current research so that they can talk to their vets and make their own decisions about the best food for their own dogs.
    Last edited by lattelove; 03-17-2019 at 02:11 PM. Reason: Original post made it sound like I was feeding my daughter the dog food!

  5. #5
    Old Dawg (Senior Member) Jewel's Avatar

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    From what I've been reading, the debate is all over the place. No one really knows what is causing the supposedly increased DCM cases in supposedly otherwise healthy dogs. The one thing that I find irritating are those write-ups of individual vets using this as the opportunity to heavily push the Hill's / Royal Canin and the like as the only foods that won't kill your dog.

    I fed grain free kibbles to my last pair, but I wasn't trying to avoid grains. I wanted them to have more protein and grain free formulas contain higher protein content (they were also fed home made food and the home made always contained some type of grain). The kibbles I used with them had first 3 to 4 ingredients of animal protein. What I've noticed is that many of the grain free formulas these days use plenty of legumes, mostly peas, lentils and chickpeas. I've also noticed that these days the marketing pitch is about the lack of grains, and not the high protein. Some blame the DCM on the use of legumes.

    I just want to say one other thing... many of these vets say that very few dogs are allergic to grains... Well, we fell in that supposedly very minority group. Our first pyr was horribly allergic to oats. Eating oats made her break out in full staph infection all over her body within 12 hours and bathing with oatmeal shampoo turned her skin bright red and her coat fell out in clumps within hours. So there are dogs that are truly very allergic to grains.

  6. #6
    Old Dawg (Senior Member) SebastiansMom's Avatar

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    I will say that my two, each of whom have predisposed breeds in their mix, ate Merrick Grain-Free Buffalo formula for several years without issue. It is considered “Boutique” and “Exotic”, as well as being Grain-Free. There were a lot of factors that went into my decision to switch them to Kirkland Signature Mature Dog Formula last Summer.

    I also agree that vets using this as an opportunity to push Science Diet and Royal Canin is pretty irresponsible, especially when no one knows exactly what the cause of the link is. Originally, they thought that grain-free foods were somehow causing the dogs to develop a taurine deficiency, but they now know that dogs with normal taurine levels are developing DCM. They also don’t know why some dogs on the so-called “BEG” diet develop DCM, while many many others lead long and healthy lives.

    Ultimately, there is no “right” or “wrong” answer for every dog.
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    Road Dawg lattelove's Avatar

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    Jewel, thank you for your input as well. Yes, it seems the current research is pointing the finger at the legumes that often replace the grains in the grain-free kibble. The kibble I was feeding her does contain a lot of peas, which made me concerned.

    I am also suspicious of health recommendations (for people or pets) that end with a push for particular brands. I'm somewhat conflicted over this, but since Latte has no medical reason to avoid grains, I'm going to play it safe and take her off of the grain-free food.

  8. #8
    Road Dawg lattelove's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by SebastiansMom View Post
    I will say that my two, each of whom have predisposed breeds in their mix, ate Merrick Grain-Free Buffalo formula for several years without issue. It is considered “Boutique” and “Exotic”, as well as being Grain-Free. There were a lot of factors that went into my decision to switch them to Kirkland Signature Mature Dog Formula last Summer.

    I also agree that vets using this as an opportunity to push Science Diet and Royal Canin is pretty irresponsible, especially when no one knows exactly what the cause of the link is. Originally, they thought that grain-free foods were somehow causing the dogs to develop a taurine deficiency, but they now know that dogs with normal taurine levels are developing DCM. They also don’t know why some dogs on the so-called “BEG” diet develop DCM, while many many others lead long and healthy lives.

    Ultimately, there is no “right” or “wrong” answer for every dog.
    Thank you, SebastiansMom! I am having a lot of anxiety over this, wondering if I harmed her by the food I chose for her (after many hours of research across several weeks to choose the best food for her). I feel a little more at ease after reading your post.

  9. #9
    Old Dawg (Senior Member) Jewel's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by lattelove View Post
    I am having a lot of anxiety over this, wondering if I harmed her by the food I chose for her (after many hours of research across several weeks to choose the best food for her).
    If you want to make sure things are ok with Latte, A&M has one of the most respected experts on DCM. DCM is very prevalent in show line dobermans and my friends that are involved in breeding and showing dobies go to A&M for testing.

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