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  • Jefferson Adams

    Could Gluten-Free Food Be Hurting Your Dog?

    Jefferson Adams


    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine, along with a group of veterinary diagnostic laboratories, is investigating the possible link between DCM and pet foods.


    Caption: Image: CC--angela n.

    Celiac.com 08/15/2018 - Grain-free food has been linked to heart disease in dogs. A canine cardiovascular disease that has historically been seen in just a few breeds is becoming more common in other breeds, and one possible culprit is grain-free dog food. 

    The disease in question is called canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), and often results in congestive heart failure. DCM is historically common in large dogs such as Great Danes, Newfoundlands, Irish Wolfhounds, Saint Bernards and Doberman Pinschers, though it is also affects some Cocker Spaniels.  Numerous cases of DCM have been reported in smaller dogs, whose primary source of nutrition was food containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds or potatoes as main ingredients. These reported atypical DCM cases included Golden and Labrador Retrievers, a Whippet, a Shih Tzu, a Bulldog and Miniature Schnauzers, as well as mixed breeds. 



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    As a result, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine, along with a group of veterinary diagnostic laboratories, is investigating the possible link between DCM and pet foods containing seeds or potatoes as main ingredients. The good news is that in cases where the dog suffers no genetic component, and the disease is caught early, simple veterinary treatment and dietary change may improve heart function.

    According to Nutritional Outlook, an industry publication for makers of dietary supplements and healthy foods and beverages, there is a growing market for “free from” foods for dogs, especially gluten-free and grain-free formulations. In 2017, about one in five dog foods launched was gluten-free. So, do dogs really need to eat grain-free or gluten-free food? Probably not, according to PetMD, which notes that many pet owners are simply projecting their own food biases when choosing dog food.

    Genetically, dogs are well adapted to easily digest grains and other carbohydrates. Also, beef and dairy remain the most common allergens for dogs, so even dogs with allergies are unlikely to need to need grain-free food. 

    So, the take away here seems to be that most dogs don’t need grain-free or gluten-free food, and that it might actually be bad for the dog, not good, as the owner might imagine.

    Stay tuned for more on the FDA’s investigation and any findings they make.

    Read more at Bizjournals.com

     


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     "Numerous cases of DCM have been reported in smaller dogs, whose primary source of nutrition was food containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds or potatoes as main ingredients." In commercial kibble you need some filler, so if not grains, something even worse goes in the mix. Rule of thumb in my pack - the amount of grains fed is the exact amount that goes out the other way undigested. Same goes for legumes but who would feed their dogs legumes when feeding fresh diet, right? Not even vegans. ?

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    I have Celiac and I feed my dog a good quality dry dog food that happens to be grain free because I don't want to deal with gluten whenever I feed her, whenever she licks me, grooms herself or whatever.  Since the main starch in commercial dog foods seems to be soy or corn, I don't think she's missing much.  However, dog food is only about half of her diet.  She gets some of whatever we're having most of the time for a little variety.  (yes, before anyone speaks up, never onions, mostly meat but she does like pinto beans in chili, not black beans, just pintos.  :-) )  She's a healthy dog.

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    Let's be clear here that the issue is not lack of grains or gluten or too much protein that's causing this issue.  It is the filler/cheaper protein that the companies add by way of added legumes (chickpeas, lentils, peas, etc.) that is the cause of the heart disease. This means you must do your homework, read ingredients labels, and if needed, call the company. Some companies are transparent about what percentage of the protein in the dry kibble comes from non-meat sources, others not so much. For example, Merrick grain free foods state on bag that 70% of the protein used in their grain free kibble comes from meat sources, not grain or legumes. My rule of thumb is that the first 2-3 ingredients must be quality (no ambiguous 'by products etc.) meats or egg. So, consumer beware, do your homework, make the phone calls, etc. It's a crazy world out there. :>)

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    The way this article is written makes it sound like dogs need grains to survive. That isn't true....they are carnivores. They never ate grain until the last century when dog food was introduced.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,500 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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