Most of the dog foods listed are usually labeled “grain-free” and contain a large proportion of peas, lentils, legume seeds or potatoes, according to the report. Many of the dogs researched in the investigation did not have a genetic predisposition to the condition, the F.D.A. said.
Using an abbreviation for the disease, the agency said in its report that it was “using a range of science-based investigative tools as it strives to learn more about this emergence of D.C.M. and its potential link to certain diets or ingredients.”
“We understand the concern that pet owners have about these reports: The illnesses can be severe, even fatal, and many cases report eating ‘grain-free’ labeled pet food.”
In July 2018, the study began investigating diagnosed cases of the disease that had been reported to the F.D.A. The agency started receiving reports of dilated cardiomyopathy in cats and dogs in 2014. Since that year, 560 dogs with the heart condition have been reported to the F.D.A., of which 119 have died, according to the report.
The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates there are 77 million pet dogs in the United States, most of which are not developing dilated cardiomyopathy, the F.D.A. said in a statement. The number of dogs affected with heart disease may not seem like a lot, John de Jong, president of the veterinary association, said on Saturday, but the F.D.A. found a trend and is informing consumers of it.
“The F.D.A. has a responsibility that if it is more than five or 10 isolated cases, that is something to be reported,” Dr. de Jong said.
“It is not five million dogs; it’s still a small amount,” he added. “I would also caution the consumer not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
Cardiomyopathy affects dogs by thinning the left ventricle of the heart, the last place blood rests before the heart pumps it out, Dr. de Jong explained. That weakens the heart, which means fluid can enter a dog’s lungs, causing a cough or illness. The disease can be treated with medication if caught early, he said.
Dr. de Jong said the trend of not having grain in a dog’s diet might be a culprit.
“The whole grain-free thing is a popular myth,” Dr. de Jong said. “If they look at the dogs’ relatives in the wild, like coyotes, wolves and hyenas, they live on their prey. Those animals they prey on are typically herbivores, so they are ingesting grains anyway.”
Over all, the best thing a dog owner could do is consult with a veterinarian, Dr. de Jong said.
“It is not an overwhelming amount of cases out there,” he said. “We do know it exists and we know it is a fully high correlation; some of those diets may suffice.
“If it ain’t broke you don’t have to fix it.”