Many have asked me my take on the recent concerns raised about grain free dog foods.  Here it is:

As I understand it, there isn’t unequivocal data about the link between legume-rich dog food and dilated cardiomyopathy (legumes commonly used in dog food are peas, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), and lentils).  It’s probably a more complex problem than what’s being presented right now.  Legumes may interfere with the production of taurine (a heart-friendly amino acid) in the body.  There seems to be a genetic component in some of the cases.  This should concern you if you have a golden retriever, for example, because that is one breed where there seems to be a connection between legumes and heart disease.

While we wait for more research to identify the exact mechanisms at work, there are some ways you can respond:

  1. Some dog food manufacturers—NutriSource for one—is already upping the taurine added to their formulas. I suspect that other manufacturers will supplement with taurine or up the amount if they already add it.  They’ve been doing it for years with cat food; now it’s dogs’ turn.
  2. You can give your dog supplemental taurine yourself. Consult with your vet to determine dosage.
  3. You can rotate foods for your dog. If you’ve ever spoken with me about what food to feed your dog, you’ve heard me say, “All of them.”  I am a strong proponent of rotating foods, and this issue just adds to the reasons why.  Say you feed your dog the same thing year after year.  What if that food you have chosen has too much or too little of a nutrient that your dog needs?  We don’t know what is the ideal food for a dog—and every dog may have a different ideal food.  So hedge your bets.  Feed your dog some food with grain instead of legumes (aside:  These days, it’s hard to find a grain free food that doesn’t contain legumes.  Even the food we carried that was grain free and didn’t have legumes—Natural Balance—has started appearing with peas (a legume) on their new ingredient lists).
  4. Feed your dog some raw meat—a good source of taurine. Use meaty treats instead of grain free biscuits.
  5. Feed heart meat—a good source of taurine. We carry treats that ARE heart or have heart meat in them.
  6. Relax, and enjoy your dog!