USA- Animal nutritionists and veterinarians from BSM Partners and the University of Missouri have challenged the common belief that grain-free diets negatively impact cardiac function in dogs and contribute to the development of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in a research article.

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a type of heart muscle disease that causes the heart chambers (ventricles) to thin and stretch, growing larger, has been traditionally considered a disease of genetic origin in dogs. However, it has been suspected in breeds that have not been previously noted to have a predisposition to the DCM phenotype.

Recently, published studies have investigated a potential association between diets rich in pulses, potatoes, and/or sweet potatoes, which have also been referred to as non-traditional diets.

The comprehensive study follows a prior research initiative led by BSM Partners and the University of Illinois, which demonstrated that both grain-inclusive and grain-free dog food had no adverse effects on food digestibility in canines.

This is the longest prospective study to date evaluating diet and cardiac function,” stated Stacey Leach DVM, DACVIM, co-author of the study and chief of cardiology and associate teaching professor of cardiology at the University of Missouri’s Veterinary Health Center. 

The researchers formulated four distinct dog food formulas for the study, including two grain-free diets containing pulse ingredients such as peas and lentils, alongside potatoes. Additionally, two grain-inclusive diets were created, excluding pulses and potatoes. In both categories, one diet was high in animal protein, while the other was low in animal protein.

To identify any changes in cardiac function over time, our multi-disciplinary team collected and examined a wide cross-section of data,” Stacey explained.

The study, conducted over a seven-month period, involved 65 purebred beagles fed one of the four test diets. Throughout the duration of the study, the researchers closely monitored cardiac biomarkers, echocardiographic data, and endomyocardial biopsies to ascertain whether the diets had any effect on canine cardiac function.

Upon conclusion of the study, the researchers reported no evidence of cardiac dysfunction in dogs fed any of the test diets. Notably, none of the subjects developed DCM.

While our study was unable to identify any dietary correlation to DCM, we continue to encourage our peers to perform and publish peer-reviewed controlled studies to enhance our understanding of cardiac function and the development of DCM,” urged Stephanie Clark, Ph.D., VTS (Nutrition), co-author of the study and a board-certified companion animal nutritionist with BSM Partners.

This research challenges prevailing beliefs and underscores the importance of evidence-based understanding regarding dietary effects on canine cardiac health. Further research and collaboration within the veterinary and nutrition communities are essential to comprehensively comprehend the nuanced relationship between diet and cardiac function in dogs.